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Change in Disability Classification: Redrawing Categorical Boundaries in SpecialEducation in the United States and Germany, 1920‐2005

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image of Comparative Sociology
For content published from 1960-2001, see International Journal of Comparative Sociology.

How do we make sense of considerable cultural differences and change in disability classification? How are disability’s categorical boundaries being redrawn in special education to realign with shifting paradigms of normality? Based in particular on the case of provided services to students “with special educational needs,” this analysis examines classification systems of student disability and their categorical boundaries in the United States and Germany. Sketching the origins and evolution of special education categories from 1920 to 2005, the comparison shows how categorical boundaries have been redrawn, giving rise to new groups of students.

Affiliations: 1: Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung (WZB), Research Unit: Skill Formation and Labor Markets Reichpietschufer 50, 10785 Berlin, Germany, Email:


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