Disability Measurement in the Health and Retirement Study

Emily Agree, Douglas A. Wolf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The Health and Retirement Study (HRS) has provided extensive and detailed national data on disability since it began in 1992, and has been used extensively in studies of disability trends and trajectories. We summarize conceptual frameworks used to characterize disability and review the HRS measures of functioning, work disability, and employer accommodations. HRS survey questions have experienced changes in wording, skip logic, or other design features over the life of the study, and we comment on the analytic challenges posed by those changes. Among our conclusions are (1) work disability and benefit eligibility are important concepts that should be considered for redesign to better reflect current concepts and policy issues; (2) methodological studies of changes in wording or skip logic should be undertaken; and (3) minor additions to survey content in areas such as temporal reference periods or changes in social-participation activities would improve measurement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20170029
JournalUnknown Journal
StateAccepted/In press - Oct 31 2017



  • aging
  • disability
  • retirement
  • Survey research
  • work limitations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance (miscellaneous)
  • Health Policy

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