Collegiate purpose development at the intersections of disability and social class habitus

Document Type



Published in: The Review of Higher Education, vol. 43, issue 1, 2019.


Although scholars have noted that disability is a multivalent construct that is experienced intersectionally, very little intersectional research exists about the growing population of diverse college students with disabilities. This grounded theory study elucidates how the intersections of social class and ability shaped purpose development for 59 college students with diverse disabilities. Emergent themes included student concerns about survival, living comfortably, and being dependent. We offer three theoretical propositions to provide insight into the complex intersections of social class, ability, and purpose development for college students. Recommendations for higher educators (e.g., faculty, academic advisors, career services professionals) are included.