Office of Survey Methods Research

Abstract

Kevin E. Cahill, Michael D. Giandrea, and Joseph F. Quinn (2006) "A Micro-level Analysis of Recent Increases in Labor Force Participation among Older Workers"

Aggregate data reveal a sizable increase in labor force participation rates since 2000 among workers on the cusp of retirement, reverting back to levels for older men not seen since the 1970s. These aggregate numbers are useful in that they document overall trends, but they lack the ability to identify the reasons behind workers' decisions. The Health and Retirement Study (HRS) spans the last dozen years from 1992 to 2004, includes two cohorts of retirees, and provides micro-level data regarding these recent trends. Moreover, the HRS contains information on older Americans and the types of jobs they are taking (full-time versus part-time, self-employed versus wage-and-salary, low-paying versus high-paying, blue collar versus white collar, etc.). This study capitalizes on the richness of the HRS data and explores labor force determinants and outcomes of older Americans, with an emphasis on retirees' choices in recent years. We present a cross-sectional and longitudinal description of the financial, health, and employment situation of older Americans. We then explore retirement determinants using a multinomial approach to model gradual retirement and a two-step approach to model the work-leisure and hours intensity decisions of older workers. Evidence suggests that the majority of older Americans retire gradually, in stages, and that younger retirees continue to respond to financial incentives just as their predecessors did. In addition, recent macro-level changes appear to have blurred the distinction between younger and middle-aged retirees.

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