Why Are More Than 35 Percent Swedes On Disability?

The proportion of men collecting disability benefits at older ages varies greatly across countries — for example, more than 35 percent of 64-year-old men in Sweden and more than 25 percent of those in the Netherlands are on DI, versus 10 percent or less in Belgium, Italy, and Spain. Does this reflect differences in the underlying health status of older individuals in these countries? Or do differences in the provisions of the DI systems explain this variation in DI take-up rates?

What do you think? Study here. HT to Jason Shafrin.

Comments (7)

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  1. Bruce says:

    Aren’t the Swedes paying people to be disabled? And you want to know why the more they pay the more there are? I thought you folks were supposed to be economists.

  2. Tom H. says:

    People usually do what they are paid to do. And if you think about it, that’s good. It would be a chaotic world if most people did the opposite of what they are paid to do.

  3. Devon Herrick says:

    I suspect the difference in disability by country has to do with which countries allow disability as a means to retire earlier.

    The Wall Street Journal had an article about an administrative law judge that approved nearly 100% of the disability application cases he reviewed. He was once hear to complain that some administrative law judges acted like it was “their money.” He also referenced the fact that some of the applicants had limited education and few opportunities. He was a one-man welfare program.

  4. Eric Adler says:

    I haven’t read the referenced paper, which is behind a pay wall. It isn’t clear what difference a classification of disabled means to a 65 year old Swede. If they are not employed, the get a pension anyway.

    The Swedish government brags that its statistics show a high proportion of people there are over 65. They have good longevity, are physically active, and very few live in nursing homes. An increasing proportion are pensioners hold jobs as well. Over 94% of those over 65 live in regular flats or homes. Just over 16% of those over 80 live in nursing homes.

    The high proportion of those 64 years old who are classed as disabled must be related to incentives in the Swedish retirement benefit system which like the US allows for early retirement before age 65 at a reduced pension level, as well as the way this classification is decided.

  5. Geoff Brooks says:

    Mr. Goodman, Following your post “Krugman Gets It Wrong Again”, the analysis on Incidental Economist seems to demand a response from you. If you’re correct, some clarification is required. If you’re not correct, the honorable thing would be to acknowledge the error.

    Your responses to comments show that you read and follow up on comments. You have so far failed to support your assertions or to acknowledge your error. Please address the issue in a thoughtful way.

  6. Steve says:

    From your headline I thought 35% of Swedes were on DI. Thankfully, they are not, as you clarify in your post. I’m sure you didn’t intend to suggest that 35% of Swedes are deadbeats collecting DI.

  7. Devon Herrick says:


    I received an error message from the Incidental Economist’s web server when I tried to post a comment Tuesday. I sent the comment Wednesday morning.