Measurement Error in Retrospective Work Histories

Jose Pina Sánchez, Johan Koskinen, Ian Plewis


Measurement error in retrospective reports of work status has been difficult to quantify in the past. Issues of confidentiality have made access to datasets linking survey responses to a valid administrative source very problematic. This study uses a Swedish register of unemployment as a benchmark against which responses from two survey questions are compared and hence the presence of measurement error elucidated. We carry out separate analyses for the different forms that measurement error in retrospective reports of unemployment can take: miscounting of the number of spells of unemployment, mismeasuring duration in unemployment, and misdating starts of spells and misclassification of status. The prevalence of measurement error for different social categories and interview formats is also examined, leading to a better understanding of the error-generating mechanisms that interact when interviewees are asked to produce retrospective reports of past work status.


Measurement error, survey, retrospective design, work history, administrative data

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