Poverty Among Adults with Disabilities: Barriers to Promoting Asset Accumulation in Individual Development Accounts

Michal Soffer, Katherine E. McDonald, Peter Blanck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Adults with disabilities disproportionally experience poverty. We examine one novel strategy to promote economic well-being among adults with disabilities living in or near poverty, namely Individual Development Accounts (IDAs). IDAs are designed to help individuals save money and subsequently accumulate assets. Although adults with disabilities account for the majority of IDA participants, scant attention has been paid to their IDA saving performance. We describe the significance of accumulating assets, particularly as it relates to adults with disabilities. We then map the nature of IDA programs and analyze barriers to participation in IDAs and asset accumulation related to conflicting federal policies and a lack of sensitivity to disability-specific needs. We conclude by offering policy recommendations from our analysis, including the need to eliminate the means-tests used in welfare policies, de-linking participation in IDAs from employment status, and involving people with disabilities in designing and evaluating asset accumulation policies and programs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)376-385
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Journal of Community Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 2010
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments The development of this manuscript was funded in part by grants from: (1) U.S. Department of Education, National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR): (i) Demand Side Employment Placement Models (No. H133A060033), (ii) Asset and Economic Self-Sufficiency Project (No. H133A090014), (iii) Start-Up NY (No. E-9-4-6-0109); (iv) Southeast Disability & Business Technical Assistance Center, Grant No. H133A060094; and, (v) Center on Effective Delivery of Rehabilitation Technology by Vocational Rehabilitation Agencies, Grant No. H133A090004; (2) U.S. Department of Education, Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) Technical Assistance & Continuing Education (Grant No. H264A080021); (3) U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) Disability Case Study Research Consortium on Employer Organizational Practices in Employing People with Disabilities (No. E-9-4-6-0107); and, (4) U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers on Medicare & Medicaid Services Comprehensive Employment System Medicaid Infrastructure Grant to New York State (No. 1QACMS030318). We thank William Myhill and Noemi Enchautegui-de-Jesús for comments, and Kenneth Hunt and Eric Moll for assistance with reference materials.


  • Asset accumulation
  • Individual development accounts
  • People with disabilities
  • Poverty

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Applied Psychology


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