Over 1 in 4 Americans are disabled (26.8%), yet health disparities for this subpopulation remain under-addressed. Tackling health disparities for people with disabilities requires effective public health and disability policies that cannot be developed without standardized and accurate disability data. The National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) annually collects data on health outcomes for the non-institutionalized U.S. population, including those with disabilities. The questions to measure disability in the NHIS have changed over time, raising concerns about how these changes affect the accuracy of the count of people with disabilities in the U.S. This brief summarizes findings from a recent study that used the 2011-2012 NHIS data to compare the prevalence of the disabled population estimated in the NHIS by using two sets of questions on disability – those from the American Community Survey vs. those from the Washington Group Short Set (WG-SS). Results show that the WG-SS undercounted more than half of adult respondents aged 18 and over who reported being disabled in the ACS questions.

Document Type

Research Brief


Disability, National Health Interview Survey


Disability Studies | Family, Life Course, and Society | Sociology






Thank you to Shannon Monnat and Alyssa Kirk for their edits to this brief.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.