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Designing Questions To Identify People with Disabilities in Labor Force Surveys: A History of the Work of BLS to Measure the Employment Level of Adults with Disabilities

Terence M. McMenamin, Douglas L. Kruse, Thomas W. Hale, and Haejin Kim


In 1998, Executive Order 13078 mandated the development of an accurate and reliable measure of the employment rate of people with disabilities to be published as frequently as possible. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, in cooperation with the Employment Rate Measurement Methodology interagency workgroup, identified the goal of placing a small set of questions within the Current Population Survey. A group of potential questions was drawn from existing surveys, cognitively tested, and placed in the National Comorbidity Survey (NCS) for a field test. The BLS analyzed the test data to determine the disability status of respondents, using a Dephi process for difficult cases. A variety of tests were used to identify which small set of questions best approximated the results of the initial analysis. The BLS then cognitively tested the small set of questions to identify any comprehension problems respondents might have in a CPS context. Further field testing in a CPS environment is being planned to determine the compatibility between the question set and the survey.