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Codes and Frequencies

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DISABWRK identifies persons who had "a health problem or a disability which prevents him/her from working or which limits the kind or amount of work." This question was used to determine whether a follow-up question should be asked about the receipt of income as the result of a health problem. Respondents were not supposed to refer to short, acute illnesses (e.g., influenza) or temporary conditions (e.g., pregnancy or broken bones), but this is not specified in the question wording.


There is a significant change in this variable beginning in 2015. Prior to 2015, the question asks about a health problem or disability at the time of the interview. Beginning in 2015, the question covers the entire previous year and includes issues that limited respondents' activities even for a short time. The broadening of the time period covered by the question and the inclusion of temporary disabilities increases reported disability after 2015.

Comparability with IPUMS-USA

The DISABWRK variable in IPUMS-USA for 1970 through 1990 includes three classifications: "no disability that affects work"; "disability limits but does not prevent work"; and "disability prevents work." Persons in the second category are approximately comparable to individuals in IPUMS-CPS who were identified as disabled by the DISABWRK variable. In census 2000, as in IPUMS-CPS, the DISABWRK is dichotomous: "no disability that affects work" and "disability causes difficulty working." The census questions are clearer than the CPS question in specifying that the disability must be of long duration ("lasting six months or more") and serious ("a serious illness or handicap"). The universe is restricted to persons age 16 and older for the 1980, 1990, and 2000 censuses, and to persons age 15 and older in the CPS.


  • Persons age 15+.


Years Jan Feb ASEC Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
1988 – 2023 - - X - - - - - - - - -



Unharmonized Variables