Volume 37 | Number 2 | April 2002

Abstract List

Mitchell P. LaPlante, Charlene Harrington, Taewoon Kang


To estimate the total hours of paid and unpaid personal assistance of daily living provided to adults living at home in the United States using nationally representative household survey data.

Data Sources

The Disability Followback Survey of the National Health Interview Survey on Disability (NHIS‐D) conducted from 1994 to 1997.

Data Collection/Extraction Methods

Data were obtained on persons receiving help with up to 5 ADLs and 10 IADLs, for up to 4 helpers, including the activities they helped with, whether the helper was paid or not, and the number of hours of help provided in the two weeks prior to the survey. The sample consists of 8,471 household‐resident adults ages 18 and older receiving help with personal assistance. About 22 percent of the sample has missing data on hours, which we impute by multiple regression models using demographic, ADL, and IADL variables.


We estimate that 13.2 million noninstitutionalized adults receive an average of 31.4 hours per week of personal assistance in ADLs and IADLs per week, with 3.2 million people receiving an average of 17.6 hours of paid help and 11.7 million receiving an average of 30.7 hours of unpaid help. More persons ages 18–64 received help than those ages 65 and older (6.9 versus 6.2 million), but working‐age recipients had fewer hours (27.4 versus 35.9) per week, due in part to less severe levels of disability.


Personal assistance provided to adults with disabilities amounts to 21.5 billion hours of help per year, with an economic value in 1996 approaching 200.16,32 billion in home health services spent annually. This study, the first to estimate hours of assistance for both working‐age and older adults, documents that older persons are more likely to receive paid personal assistance, while working‐age people rely to a greater extent on unpaid help. This study begins to articulate the division of labor in the provision of personal assistance. Estimates of paid and unpaid hours of help by number of ADLs should inform policy concerning eligibility boundaries in long term care.