Intersections between disability, type of impairment, gender and socio-economic disadvantage in a nationally representative sample of 33,101 working-aged Australians

Anne M. Kavanagh, B.M.B.S., Ph.D., Lauren Krnjacki, B.Sc., M.P.H., Zoe Aitken, B.Sc., M.Sc., Anthony D. LaMontagne, B.Sc., M.A., Med, D.Sc., Andrew Beer, B.A., Ph.D., Emma Baker, B.A., Ph.D., Rebecca Bentley, B.Sc., Ph.D.



People with disabilities are socio-economically disadvantaged and have poorer health than people without disabilities; however, little is known about the way in which disadvantage is patterned by gender and type of impairment.


  1. To describe whether socio-economic circumstances vary according to type of impairment (sensory and speech, intellectual, physical, psychological and acquired brain injury). 2. To compare levels of socio-economic disadvantage for women and men with the same impairment type.


We used a large population-based disability-focused survey of Australians, analyzing data from 33,101 participants aged 25–64. Indicators of socio-economic disadvantage included education, income, employment, housing vulnerability, and multiple disadvantage. Stratified by impairment type, we estimated: the population weighted prevalence of socio-economic disadvantage; the relative odds of disadvantage compared to people without disabilities; and the relative odds of disadvantage between women and men.


With few exceptions, people with disabilities fared worse for every indicator compared to people without disability; those with intellectual and psychological impairments and acquired brain injuries were most disadvantaged. While overall women with disabilities were more disadvantaged than men, the magnitude of the relative differences was lower than the same comparisons between women and men without disabilities, and there were few differences between women and men with the same impairment types.


Crude comparisons between people with and without disabilities obscure how disadvantage is patterned according to impairment type and gender. The results emphasize the need to unpack how gender and disability intersect to shape socio-economic disadvantage.