First a job, and then a family? Impacts of disabilities on young people's life courses in a nineteenth-century Swedish region

Lotta Vikström, Erling Häggström Lundevaller, Helena Haage


This study considers the life courses of young men and women with and without disabilities in the Sundsvall region of Sweden during the nineteenth century. It aims to ascertain how disability and gender shaped their involvement in work and their experience of family in order to assess the extent of their social inclusion. Through the use of Swedish parish registers digitized by the Demographic Data Base, Umeå University, we examine 8,874 individuals observed from 15 to 33 years of age to investigate whether obtaining a job, getting married and having children were less frequent events for people with disabilities. Our results reveal that this was the case and particularly for those with mental disabilities, even if having an impairment did not wholly prevent people from finding a job. However, their work did not represent the key to family formation and for the women it implied a higher rate of illegitimacy. We argue that the lower level of inclusion in work and family was not solely the outcome of the impairment itself, but differed in relation to the particular attitudes towards men and women with disabilities within the labour market and society more generally in this particular context.


Life course; life trajectories; disability; labour; work; marriage; Demographic Data Base; CEDAR; nineteenth century; social exclusion; Sweden

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