Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal

, Volume 25, Issue 4, pp 295-310

First online:

How Do Social Networks Influence the Employment Prospects of People with Disabilities?

  • Christopher R. LangfordAffiliated withDepartment of Management, University of Texas at San Antonio Email author 
  • , Mark L. Lengnick-HallAffiliated withDepartment of Management, University of Texas at San Antonio
  • , Mukta KulkarniAffiliated withIndian Institute of Management Bangalore

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We explore the role of social networks used by people with disabilities for finding employment. In addition, we outline obstacles to network building for those with a disability. We contend that this group is often constrained and they underutilize their networks during job searches. Both factors are likely to result in negative employment outcomes and contribute to the employment gap between those with and without a disability. We outline how key network characteristics such as homophily, tie strength, and centrality influence job search outcomes for those with a disability differently than for those without a disability. Furthermore, we propose that although individuals with disabilities develop and rely upon networks that are comprised of close bonds with similar individuals that are either unemployed or underemployed in lower status positions, optimal networks for employment purposes should consist of diverse acquaintances that occupy central positions and higher status jobs within organizations. Finally, we outline propositions to guide future research on this neglected topic and also suggest practical implications.

Key Words

Disability Job search Social networks Diversity Human resources