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How Large is the Bias is Self-Reported Disability?

  • Hugo Benitez-Silva
  • Moshe Buchinsky
  • Hiu Man Chan
  • Sofia Cheidvasser
  • John Rust

A pervasive concern with the use of self-reported health and disability measures in behavioral models is that they are biased and endogenous. A commonly suggested explanation is that survey respondents exaggerate the severity of health problems and incidence of disabilities in order to rationalize labor force non-participation, application for disability benefits and/or receipt of those benefits. This paper re-examines this issue using a self-reported indicator of disability status from the Health and Retirement Survey. Using a bivariate probit model we test and are unable to reject the hypothesis that the self-reported disability measure is an exogenous explanatory variable in a model of individual's decision to apply for DI benefits or Social Security Administration's decision to award benefits. We further study a subsample of individuals who applied for Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA) for whom we can also observe SSA's award/deny decision. For this subsample we test and are unable to reject the hypothesis that self-reported disability is health and socio-economic characteristics similar to the information used by the SSA in making its award decisions. The unbiasedness restriction implies that these two variables have the same conditional probability distributions. Thus, our results indicate that disability applicant do not exaggerate their disability status at least in anonymous surveys such as the HRS. Indeed, our results are consistent with the hypothesis that disability applicants are aware of the criteria and decision rules that SSA uses in making awards and act as if they were applying these same criteria and rules when reporting their own disability status.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 7526.

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Date of creation: Feb 2000
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Publication status: published as Benitez-Silva, Hugo, Moshe Buchinsky, Hiu Man Chan, Sofia Cheidvasser, and John P. Rust. "How Large is the Bias is Self-Reported Disability?" Journal of Applied Econometrics 19 (2004): 649-670.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7526
Note: AG LS
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  2. Debra S. Dwyer & Olivia S. Mitchell, . "Health Problems as Determinants of Retirement: Are Self-Rated Measures Endogenous?," Pension Research Council Working Papers 98-7, Wharton School Pension Research Council, University of Pennsylvania.
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  8. Richard V. Burkhauser & Robert H. Haveman & Barbara L. Wolfe, 1993. "How people with disabilities fare when public policies change," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 12(2), pages 251-269.
  9. John Bound, 1991. "Self-Reported Versus Objective Measures of Health in Retirement Models," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 26(1), pages 106-138.
  10. Hugo Benítez-Silva & Moshe Buchinsky & Hiu Man Chan & Sofia Cheidvasser & John Rust, 2004. "How large is the bias in self-reported disability?," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 19(6), pages 649-670.
  11. Jianting Hu & Kajal Lahiri & Denton R. Vaughan & Bernard Wixon, 2001. "A Structural Model Of Social Security'S Disability Determination Process," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 83(2), pages 348-361, May.
  12. Bound, John, 1989. "The Health and Earnings of Rejected Disability Insurance Applicants," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(3), pages 482-503, June.
  13. Janice Halpern & Jerry A. Hausman, 1985. "Choice Under Uncertainty: A Model of Applications for the Social Security Disability Insurance Program," NBER Working Papers 1690, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Kathryn H. Anderson & Richard V. Burkhauser, 1985. "The Retirement-Health Nexus: A New Measure of an Old Puzzle," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 20(3), pages 315-330.
  15. Bierens, Herman J, 1990. "A Consistent Conditional Moment Test of Functional Form," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 58(6), pages 1443-58, November.
  16. Horowitz, Joel L. & Spokoiny, Vladimir G., 1999. "An Adaptive, Rate-Optimal Test of a Parametric Model Against a Nonparametric Alternative," Working Papers 99-02, University of Iowa, Department of Economics.
  17. John Rust & Christopher Phelan, 1997. "How Social Security and Medicare Affect Retirement Behavior in a World of Incomplete Markets," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 65(4), pages 781-832, July.
  18. Heckman, James J, 1978. "Dummy Endogenous Variables in a Simultaneous Equation System," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 46(4), pages 931-59, July.
  19. Donald W. K. Andrews & Moshe Buchinsky, 2000. "A Three-Step Method for Choosing the Number of Bootstrap Repetitions," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 68(1), pages 23-52, January.
  20. Benitez-Silva, Hugo & Buchinsky, Moshe & Chan, Hiu Man & Rust, John & Sheidvasser, Sofia, 1999. "An empirical analysis of the social security disability application, appeal, and award process," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(2), pages 147-178, June.
  21. Parsons, Donald O, 1991. "The Health and Earnings of Rejected Disability Insurance Applicants: Comment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(5), pages 1419-26, December.
  22. John Bound & Michael Schoenbaum & Timothy Waidmann, 1995. "Race and Education Differences in Disability Status and Labor Force Attachment," NBER Working Papers 5159, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  23. Horowitz, Joel L. & Spokoiny, Vladimir G., 1999. "An adaptive, rate-optimal test of a parametric model against a nonparametric alternative," SFB 373 Discussion Papers 1999,10, Humboldt University of Berlin, Interdisciplinary Research Project 373: Quantification and Simulation of Economic Processes.
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