Capturing the Elusive Working-Age Population With Disabilities: Reconciling Conflicting Social Success Estimates From the Current Population Survey and American Community Survey

Academic Article


  • 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.
  • Authors

  • Burkhauser, Richard V
  • Houtenville, Andrew
  • Tennant, Jennifer R
  • Status

    Publication Date

  • March 2014
  • Has Subject Area

    Published In


  • CPS
  • employment
  • program participation
  • six-question sequence of disability
  • work-activity limitation
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Start Page

  • 195
  • End Page

  • 205
  • Volume

  • 24
  • Issue

  • 4