The Effects of Early Life Disabilities on Human Capital Accumulation in Young Adulthood Public Deposited

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  • March 22, 2019
  • Queiros, Fernanda Costa de
    • Affiliation: Gillings School of Global Public Health, Department of Maternal and Child Health
  • Rates of developmental disability are on the rise in the United States. However, little is known about the accumulation of human capital by early adulthood among individuals with disabilities. This dissertation examines the association between having a developmental disability and six indicators of human capital: education attained, employment status, occupation type, subjective perception of socioeconomic status, income, and wage rate, using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health). Add Health has followed a large, nationally representative sample of individuals in the U.S. with four in-home interviews from adolescence (Wave I) into young adulthood (Wave IV). In the first paper, I use multivariate methods to describe the associations between developmental disabilities and study outcomes using a sample of 13,040 Add Health participants who participated in Wave I and Wave IV. Nearly 11% of this sample presented with a physical or cognitive disability. Overall, respondents with disabilities reported worse outcomes when compared with their peers, but differences varied by type of disability. Employment status was not significantly different between the groups with and without disabilities, an unexpected finding. Informed by the Social Cognitive Career Theory, the second paper investigates whether expectations/goals and depression, along with educational level and work experience during adolescence mediate the association between developmental disabilities and human capital accumulation in early adulthood. I used a sample of 10,869 Add Health participants with valid Wave IV weights and no missing data on Waves I, III, and IV variables. Mediation analysis was performed following Baron and Kenny method. Depression, education at Wave III, and adolescent experience were confirmed to be partial mediators of the main association between disabilities and human capital, with variations between the disability groups. Education at Wave III had the largest effects, while the association with depression and adolescent work was modest. Greater attention to the emotional, educational and vocational context during adolescence may help to enhance these adolescent experiences to improve young adult outcomes. More broadly, this dissertation highlights the importance of considering multiple developmental experiences that may contribute to accumulation of human capital through the transition from adolescence to young adulthood.
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  • In Copyright
  • Halpern, Carolyn
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Graduation year
  • 2012

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