Vignettes and Self-Reports of Work Disability in the United States and the Netherlands

Published In: The American Economic Review, v. 97, no. 1, Mar. 2007, p. 461-473

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2006

by Arie Kapteyn, James P. Smith

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In contrast to the believed similarity in their health outcomes, workers in different Western countries report very different rates of work disability. Using new data from the United States and the Netherlands, we offer a partial resolution to this paradox. We find that observed differences in reported work disability largely stem from the fact that Dutch respondents have a lower threshold in reporting whether they have a work disability than American respondents. For those who do not suffer from pain, work disability is similar in both countries once thresholds are the same. For respondents with pain, however, a significant difference remains.

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