Disability Status as an Unobservable: Estimates From a Structural Model
Robert Haveman, Barbara Wolfe, Fung Mey Huang
NBER Working Paper No. 2831
We propose an index of "true disability" by treating disability status as an unobservable phenomenon which is both causally related to a number of exogenous characteristics of an individual and correlated with a number of observed indicators of health, impairment and qualifications for employment. First, we define true disability and distinguish it from related concepts. We then discuss the importance of an objective and reliable measure of disability for research on the determinants of behavior. Next, we present the specification of our structural model for estimating true disability as a latent variable. Finally, we report the results of our estimation in a simple model of Labor force participation, and compare the effect of using the constructed index and a self-reported disability measure on understanding the determinants of behavior and choice.