• Is the survey of high quality? What evidence is there about coverage, nonresponse, and measurement error properties of key statistics?

  • How frequently can estimates be updated? Will monthly prevalence estimates be generated, annual estimates, etc.?

  • Is the mode of administration of the survey compatible with the measures chosen from NSHA?

  • What restrictions, if any, will SSA staff have on access to microdata from the surveys? Can SSA analysts use the data for other analyses of importance to SSA or will they be given only statistics produced from the survey data?

  • Will the mission of the sponsoring agency be aided by a partnership with SSA in measuring disability status? With the obligation of many federal household surveys to provide indicators of disability, can SSA expertise in work disability be viewed as a desirable complement to the sponsor’s staff skills?

A partnership between two or more federal agencies may be beneficial to all parties involved. For example, collaborative efforts could lead to building a consensus concerning the measurement of disability in federal surveys. Additional funds from SSA to support data collection efforts may also support increases in sample size, further questionnaire development and refinement, and expand the analytic utility of any one data collection effort.

The ideal partner survey would have a sufficiently large sample4 to provide SSA with prevalence estimates that were stable enough to protect policymakers from erroneous impressions. It would have very low coverage and nonresponse errors. It would be conducted frequently, giving SSA the ability to model seasonal effects in the size of the pool and to estimate the impact of economic shocks. It would contain other measures that would be of utility to SSA in addressing other important management problems: Are all demographic subgroups changing disability prevalence in the same way over time? What are the major health and demographic correlates of disability status?

The chief threat to the feasibility of this partnering option for ongoing monitoring is that most federal household surveys are already using long and complex instruments, filled with measures of great value to existing constituencies. Seeking to add measures to these instruments faces zero-sum conflicts with existing obligations of the sponsors. The single most important sign of optimism is that several of the surveys are facing man-


“Sufficient” sample size could be based on the study’s current sample or on a sample size resulting from the pooling of funds across agencies to gain efficiency in data collection.

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