An earlier version of the manuscript was presented at a conference sponsored by the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, “Health Across the Life Course,” Ann Arbor, Michigan, September 23 and 24, 2010.
Mark R. Rank, Ph.D., Thomas A. Hirschl, Ph.D.
Work disability has implications for individual health, national health care expenditures, economic productivity, and the social safety net. Knowledge about population dynamics and risk factors associated with work disability are not delineated by cross-sectional research.
In this paper the authors estimate, for the first time, the prospective lifetime risk that a head of household will report a work disability.
Using forty years of longitudinal data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID), we estimate the lifetime risk of developing a work disability and conduct a logistic regression analysis to examine personal characteristics that increase the likelihood of a self-reported work disability. Life table methods are used to calculate lifetime prevalence, and to compute covariate effects.
Between the ages of 25 and 60, over half (54.6%) of U.S. household heads will self-report a work disability, and approximately one quarter (24.1%) will self-report a severe work disability. Persons with income below 150% of the federal poverty level, or lower educational attainment, have an increased likelihood of reporting a work disability.
This study finds that more than half of U.S. household heads will self-report a work disability, which is a higher prevalence than in existing cross-sectional estimates. The social context for this finding is that work disability is a major driver of spending on health care services and the social safety net.