Ambiguous definitions

by Russ Roberts on September 14, 2010

in Data

A lot of regressions get run using crime statistics. Maybe, just maybe, crime statistics are not so objective (HT: Damian Bickett):

For 17 months, New York police officer Adrian Schoolcraft recorded himself and his fellow officers on the job, including their supervisors ordering them to do all sorts of things police aren’t supposed to do. For example, downgrading real crimes into lesser ones, so they wouldn’t shop up in the crime statistics and make their precinct look bad.

The Washington Post reports that disability may not have a precise definition:

The number of former workers seeking Social Security disability benefits has spiked with the nation’s economic problems, heightening concern that the jobless are expanding the program beyond its intended purpose of aiding the disabled.

Applications to the program soared by 21 percent, to 2.8 million, from 2008 to 2009, as the economy was seriously faltering.

The growth is the sharpest in the 54-year history of the program. It threatens the program’s fiscal stability and adds to an administrative backlog that is slowing the flow of benefits to those who need them most.

Moreover, about 8 million workers were receiving disability benefits in June, an increase of 12.6 percent since the recession began in 2007, according to Social Security Administration statistics.

Though policymakers anticipated the program’s rolls growing with the aging of the baby-boom population, they suspect the current surge has less to do with any worsening in the health of the workforce than with the poor health of the economy.

You think? Could be. Surely someone has studied this systematically but I have long wondered about whether the unemployment numbers in the last 20 years are so have been distorted by the elasticity of the definition of disability.

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