This study estimates the rate at which workers suffering from occupational illnesses file for workers' compensation lost wage benefits and identifies some of the factors that affect the probability that a worker with an occupational illness will file. A database of reports of known or suspected cases of occupational illness is matched with workers' compensation claims data. Overall, between 9% and 45% of reported workers file for benefits. Data limitations prevent a more precise estimate of this rate, but a large proportion of workers with occupational illnesses clearly does not utilize the worker's compensation system. Logit analysis of a choice-based sample shows that women and employees of small firms are more likely than others to file for workers' compensation and that filing rates vary considerably across industries and diagnostic categories. Acute conditions related to the current job are no more likely to lead to claims than chronic conditions with long latency periods between exposure and development of disease.
From the Department of Economics (Dr Biddle), the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (Dr Roberts, Dr Welch), and the Department of Medicine, College of Human Medicine (Dr Rosenman), Michigan State University, East Lansing, Mich.
Address correspondence to: Jeff E. Biddle, PhD, Department of Economics, Marshall Hall, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824.