Justification bias in self-reported disability: new evidence from panel data

Nicole Black, David W. Johnston, Agne Suziedelyte

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28 Citations (Scopus)


The relationship between health and work is frequently investigated using self-assessments of disability from social surveys. The complication is that respondents may overstate their level of disability to justify non-employment and welfare receipt. This study provides new evidence on the existence and magnitude of justification bias by exploiting a novel feature of a large longitudinal survey: each wave respondents are asked identical disability questions twice; near the beginning and end of the face-to-face interview. Prior to answering the second disability question, respondents are asked a series of questions that increase the salience of their employment and welfare circumstances. Justification bias is identified by comparing the variation between the two measures within-individuals over time, with the variation in employment status over time. Results indicate substantial and statistically significant justification bias; especially for men and women who receive disability pensions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)124-134
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Health Economics
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2017


  • Disability
  • Justification bias
  • Non-employment
  • Panel data

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