Health at Older Ages: The Causes and Consequences of Declining Disability among the Elderly

By David M. Cutler; David A. Wise | Go to book overview

9
Work Disability is a Pain in
the ****, Especially in England,
the Netherlands, and the
United States

James Banks, Arie Kapteyn, James P. Smith, and Arthur van Soest


9.1 Introduction

High and rising rates of work disability are a pervasive problem in many industrialized countries (Bound and Burkhauser 1999). But rates of reported work disability vary considerably across countries with similar levels of economic development and comparable medical technology and treatment. Institutional differences in eligibility rules or generosity of benefits no doubt contribute to explaining the differences in disability rolls Haveman, Halberstadt, and Burkhauser (1984). Recent survey data show that significant differences between countries are also found in self-reports of work limiting disabilities and in general health. In comparing such selfreports, account should be taken of measurement issues such as differences in question wordings, as well as differences between and within countries that may exist in the scales that are used in answering questions about work disability.

This chapter investigates in some depth one highly salient—and as it turns out quite important—reason for reporting work disability, which is the presence of some type of pain. Unlike many illnesses of middle age, pain prevalence is very high. It also varies considerably across such key

James Banks is deputy research director at the Institute for Fiscal Studies, and a professor
of economics at University College London. Arie Kapteyn is a senior economist at RAND
and program director of RAND Labor and Population. James P. Smith is a senior economist
at RAND. Arthur van Soest is a senior economist at RAND and a professor of econometrics
at Tilburg University.

This research was supported by National Institute on Aging grants P30 AG12810 (to the
National Bureau of Economic Research [NBER]) and R01 AG19805 (to the RAND Corpo-
ration), and by a Mary Woodard Lasker Charitable Trust and Michael E. DeBakey Founda-
tion grant to the NBER. We thank David Rumpel for his expert programming assistance.

-251-

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