Why are Disability Rates for Older Working-Age Adults in Northern Ireland So High?

March 29, 2023

The Economic and Social Review, Vol. 54, No. 1 Spring 2023, pp. 1-28

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Northern Ireland has substantially higher rates of disability and disability benefit receipt than England, despite a common institutional context. This paper exploits newly available data from the NICOLA and ELSA surveys to examine potential health and labour market explanations for this gap, specifically among older working-age people. Observable differences in health and labour markets are sufficient to explain the gap in self-reported activity-limiting disability, but only half of the gap in worklimiting disability and income-replacement disability benefit receipt, and only one-third of the gap in additional costs disability benefit receipt. Possible reasons for these remaining unexplained gaps are discussed.