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Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Socioeconomic (Im)Mobility Among Low-Income Mothers of Children with Disabilities

Marginalized Mothers, Mothering from the Margins

ISBN: 978-1-78756-400-8, eISBN: 978-1-78756-399-5

Publication date: 15 November 2018


In this chapter, the authors contribute to the scholarly discourse on poverty, inequality, and economic mobility within low-income families who have children with disabilities. Few extant studies have addressed issues of socioeconomic mobility relative to families with children who have disabilities. Accordingly, we employed analyses of secondary longitudinal ethnographic data from the Three-City Study to explore socioeconomic mobility among 31 mothers of children with disabilities in Boston, Chicago, and San Antonio. The authors examined two central issues that emerged in our ethnographic data: (1) mothers’ aspirations regarding their socioeconomic mobility, and (2) the barriers which make it difficult for them to reach their mobility aspirations. The authors also considered the role of family comorbidity and cumulative disadvantage in this inquiry. Through our analyses of mothers’ talks regarding socioeconomic mobility, we identified three domains of their aspirations – work and career, education, and intergenerational. We also identified three “barrier bundles” – pragmatic needs, relationship and social liabilities, and socio-emotional concerns – which compromised mothers’ abilities to be upwardly mobile. In essence, we found that mothers’ aspirations were not aligned with the barriers that precluded them reaching their goals. The authors conclude with a discussion on the implications of this research for future studies.



Baker, R.S. and Burton, L.M. (2018), "Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Socioeconomic (Im)Mobility Among Low-Income Mothers of Children with Disabilities", Taylor, T. and Bloch, K. (Ed.) Marginalized Mothers, Mothering from the Margins (Advances in Gender Research, Vol. 25), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 57-72.



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