What Do Self-Reported, Objective, Measures of Health Measure?

52 Pages Posted: 14 Aug 2001 Last revised: 23 Oct 2010

See all articles by Michael Baker

Michael Baker

University of Toronto - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Mark Stabile

INSEAD; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Catherine Deri

University of Ottawa - Department of Economics

Date Written: August 2001

Abstract

Survey reports of the incidence of chronic conditions are considered by many researchers to be more objective, and thus preferable, measures of unobserved health status than self-assessed measures of global well being. The former are 1) responses to specific questions about different ailments, which may constrain the likelihood that respondents rationalize their own behavior through their answers, and 2) more comparable across respondents. In this paper we evaluate this hypothesis by exploring measurement error in these 'objective, self-reported' measures of health. Our analysis makes use of a unique data set that matches a variety of self-reports of health with respondents' medical records. Our findings are striking. For example, the ratio of the error variance to the total variance ranges from just over 30 percent for the incidence of diabetes to over 80 percent for the incidence of arthritis. Furthermore, for many conditions the error is significantly related to individuals' labor market activity, as hypothesized in the literature. In the final section of the paper we compare estimates of the effect of these different measures of health on labor market activity.

Suggested Citation

Baker, Michael and Stabile, Mark and Deri, Catherine, What Do Self-Reported, Objective, Measures of Health Measure? (August 2001). NBER Working Paper No. w8419. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=279706

Michael Baker (Contact Author)

University of Toronto - Department of Economics ( email )

150 St. George Street
Toronto, Ontario M5S 3G7
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416-978-4138 (Phone)
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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Mark Stabile

INSEAD ( email )

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France

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Catherine Deri

University of Ottawa - Department of Economics ( email )

200 Wilbrod Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1N 6N5
Canada

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