Perceived interpersonal and institutional discrimination among persons with disability in the U.S. Do patterns differ by age?

Eun Ha Namkung, Deborah Carr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Rationale: One-third of U.S. adults have an activity-limiting health condition and this proportion increases with age. However, it is unclear whether functional limitation renders one vulnerable to institutional and interpersonal discrimination, and whether this vulnerability differs over the life course. Stigma theories suggest disability would be more discrediting to younger persons relative to older adults, as it violates cultural norms and expectations regarding able-bodied working-age adults. Objective: We evaluate whether U.S. adults with functional impairment report higher levels of perceived interpersonal mistreatment and institutional discrimination relative to persons without impairment, and whether these patterns differ across age groups. Method: We use data from the second wave of the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States (MIDUS II), collected between 2004 and 2006 (n = 3931). We estimate OLS and logistic regression models to predict interpersonal and institutional discrimination, respectively. Results: Persons with impairment report more frequent encounters of disrespectful treatment, insults, and being treated as if they have a character flaw, and elevated odds of workplace- and service-related discrimination, net of sociodemographic, and physical and mental health characteristics. Effects are significantly larger among early (age 40–49) and late (age 50–64) midlife versus older (age 65+) adults. Conclusions: We discuss implications for policy and practice, and underscore that stigmatization processes may further amplify health and socioeconomic disparities between those with versus without functional limitations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number112521
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
StatePublished - Oct 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Elsevier Ltd


  • Age differences
  • Disability
  • Functional limitation
  • Institutional discrimination
  • Interpersonal discrimination
  • Life course
  • Stigma


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