However, if a smaller set of measures would sufficiently measure the population of interest (both the pool of eligibles and the pool of applicants), as well as address the other analytic goals of SSA, then partnership with another federal agency or agencies may be a cost-effective option within the work disability measurement system.

The candidate surveys for ongoing monitoring include the American Community Survey, the American Housing Survey, the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, the Current Population Survey, the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, the National Crime Victimization Survey, the National Health Interview Survey, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, the National Household Survey of Drug Abuse, and the Survey of Income and Program Participation. Three criteria were used for selection of the candidate surveys discussed here: (1) each represents an ongoing federal data collection effort; (2) the sample size is sufficient, on an annual basis, to support SSA data requirements; and (3) the survey instrument currently includes or is planning to include measures of disability as part of the questionnaire. Some candidate surveys did not meet all three criteria but were included for consideration due to some unique design feature of the study. For example, the annual samples for the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) are relatively small as compared to some other surveys (n = 5,000 and n = 15,000 persons annually, respectively); however, each of their designs benefits from a complementary component. In the case of the NHANES, the design includes a medical examination. In the case of the MEPS, the design includes data from medical care providers and providers of health insurance. Similarly, the National Household Survey of Drug Abuse does not presently include any measures of functional limitation or disability; however, the design includes both an interviewer-administered questionnaire and a self-administered set of questions that may be beneficial in the assessment of disability.

The relevant questions to be addressed in choosing a partner survey include the following:

  • How large a sample is interviewed each year? What standard errors are likely to be obtained for key disability prevalence statistics?

  • Will the addition of disability measures to the interview be consistent with the measurement goals of the original survey? Are there possibilities of context effects that could damage the accuracy of prevalence estimates?

  • Are there existing measures in the survey that might be used as explanatory variables for disability status indicators? Can the survey offer SSA other informational benefits beyond being a vehicle to produce disability prevalence statistics?

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