Institute on Disability


Capturing the elusive working-age population with disabilities: Reconciling conflicting social success estimates from the current population survey and American Community Survey


The purpose of this study is to examine the implications of using different approaches to estimating the U.S. working-age population with disabilities. The approaches compared are the traditional work-activity limitation question, the Census Bureau’s newer six-question sequence that does not include a work-activity limitation question, and the combination of the two. With data from the Current Population Survey and the American Community Survey, the authors demonstrate that using the work-limitation question or the six-question sequence alone results in an underestimate of the size of the working-age population with disabilities (assuming the International Classification of Disability, Health, and Functioning conceptualization of disabilities). Furthermore, the authors show that using the sample of the working-age population with disabilities identified by the six-question sequence will lead to biased estimates of key social policy success parameters; in particular, it will overestimate their employment rates and underestimate the share that are receiving Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income-Disabled Adults benefits relative to the broader sample that includes a work-limitation question and the six-question sequence.

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Journal of Disability Policy Studies


Sage Publications

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Copyright © 2012, Hammill Institute on Disabilities