IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this paper

Recall error and recall bias in life course epidemiology

Listed author(s):
  • Tampubolon, Gindo

OBJECTIVES I propose a distinction between recall error and recall bias and examine the the effect of childhood financial hardship on adult health, subject to such recall problems. Studying the effect of childhood hardship on adult health is a prototypical investigation in life course studies where both non-clinical factors and long-duration processes are at play in determining health outcome. These factors and processes are often elicited retrospectively. Unfortunately, retrospective information on childhood hardship is often subject to recall error and recall bias. There is surprisingly little methodological work on how to purge their effects in retrospective life course studies. METHODS I recast a variant of generalised latent variable models as covariate error measurement model to purge recall error in life course study. Additionally, I recast the endogeneous treatment model as a solution to the problem of recall bias. I apply both models to examine the effect of childhood financial hardship on adult health status of more than 359,000 European respondents from 23 countries. In addition, I validate the solutions using the National Child Development Study cohort where both prospective and restrospective information are available. RESULTS Childhood financial hardship has a strong effect on adult health status. Once recall error is accounted for in a generalised latent variable model, the effect reduced by an order of magnitude though remain statistically significant. Applying the endogeneous treatment model of recall bias suggests that childhood hardship is systematically misreported by respondents. Once this bias is purged, the effect of childhood deprivation on adult health increased markedly. Such an increase is consistent with multiple direct and indirect pathways linking childhood hardship and adult health. CONCLUSION Problems of recall error and recall bias are common in life course retrospective studies. Applied to data from 23 European countries, the proposed solutions recover the effect of childhood hardship on adult health outcome.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
File Function: original version
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 23847.

in new window

Date of creation: 12 Jul 2010
Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:23847
Contact details of provider: Postal:
Ludwigstra├če 33, D-80539 Munich, Germany

Phone: +49-(0)89-2180-2459
Fax: +49-(0)89-2180-992459
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

in new window

  1. Case, Anne & Fertig, Angela & Paxson, Christina, 2005. "The lasting impact of childhood health and circumstance," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(2), pages 365-389, March.
  2. Berney, L. R. & Blane, D. B., 1997. "Collecting retrospective data: Accuracy of recall after 50 years judged against historical records," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 45(10), pages 1519-1525, November.
  3. Holland, P. & Berney, L. & Blane, D. & Davey Smith, G. & Gunnell, D. J. & Montgomery, S. M., 2000. "Life course accumulation of disadvantage: childhood health and hazard exposure during adulthood," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 50(9), pages 1285-1295, May.
  4. Szanton, Sarah L. & Thorpe, Roland J. & Whitfield, Keith, 2010. "Life-course financial strain and health in African-Americans," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 71(2), pages 259-265, July.
  5. Glewwe, Paul & Jacoby, Hanan G. & King, Elizabeth M., 2001. "Early childhood nutrition and academic achievement: a longitudinal analysis," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 81(3), pages 345-368, September.
  6. Anders Skrondal & Sophia Rabe-Hesketh, 2007. "Latent Variable Modelling: A Survey," Scandinavian Journal of Statistics, Danish Society for Theoretical Statistics;Finnish Statistical Society;Norwegian Statistical Association;Swedish Statistical Association, vol. 34(4), pages 712-745.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:23847. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Joachim Winter)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.