initial assessment of the current practices and future challenges for measurement of disability by use of household surveys.

Across the various surveys now in place, diversity exists in conceptual definitions of disability, in the nature of reference periods used for recall, in reporting rules for answering disability questions, in modes of data collection, and in levels of thresholds used for construction of disability statistics. Furthermore, many of the measures have not undergone extensive pretesting, such as state-of-the-art cognitive interviewing methods. Too few methodological inquiries have compared alternative measurement approaches.

The interim reports of the Committee to Review the Social Security Administration's Disability Decision Process Research have provided recommendations to SSA on the survey design issues faced by the DES. Although this short-run guidance will be beneficial to the work of SSA, it does not attempt to address medium- and long-term issues in survey measurement of disability.

As a step toward exploring these issues, the Committee to Review the Social Security Administration's Disability Decision Process Research (hereafter referred to as “the committee”) convened on May 27–28, 1999, a workshop titled “Survey Measurement of Work Disability: Challenges for Survey Design and Method.” The committee believed that a focused discussion among a wide range of disability researchers and survey methodologists could identify unanswered questions about measurement and provide a framework for a long-term research agenda in this area for SSA and others in this field. Such a workshop would be helpful for the committee's review of the design and content of the DES and enhance its ability to make informed recommendations to SSA on the subject. It also could be of great value to SSA in anticipating problems of using data from other agencies' surveys to monitor the size of the pool of eligible people.

Workshop participants included members of the committee, a wide range of researchers in survey design and methods as well as in disability research, and other invited experts. The workshop, though focused on SSA's needs, drew the attention of a large number of disability researchers from other agencies, academia, and members of the public. 1 The workshop agenda and a list of participants are shown in Appendix B and Appendix C, respectively.


The committee organized the workshop through a planning subcommittee composed of Robert Groves, Chair, Monroe Berkowitz, Ronald Brookmeyer, William Kalsbeek, Alan Jette, and Dorothy Rice. Nancy Mathiowetz served as consultant to the Institute of Medicine on the development and organization of the workshop. The full committee reviewed the plans for the workshop and this report, and modifications were made in response to the comments received. Thus, the workshop reflects the collective thinking of the committee regarding the issues discussed.

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