Measurement error in retrospective work histories

Jose Pina-Sánchez, Johan Koskinen, Ian Plewis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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 problematic. This study uses a Swedish register of unemployment as a benchmark against which responses from a survey question 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. These are misdates of ends of spells, misclassifications of work status, miscounts of the number of spells of unemployment, misreports of total durations in unemployment, and mismatches of work status in person-day observations. 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 arise when interviewees are asked to produce retrospective reports of work status. We are able to confirm some previously hypothesised error mechanisms - such as 'interference - but also identify interesting patterns - such as non-monotonic dependence of recall time on recall error. © European Survey Research Association.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-55
Number of pages12
JournalSurvey Research Methods
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Administrative data
  • Measurement error
  • Retrospective questions
  • Survey
  • Work history


Dive into the research topics of 'Measurement error in retrospective work histories'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this