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Recessions and Older Workers

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Author Info

  • Alicia H. Munnell
  • Dan Muldoon
  • Steven A. Sass

Abstract

With the economy sliding ever deeper into recession, questions arise about how older workers are faring and how their fate relative to younger workers compares to the past. The answer to these questions turns out to be a little complicated. Two forces are at work. On the one hand, labor force participation among older workers has been rising since the early 1990s, a reversal of the long-standing trend toward ever-earlier retirement. Participation rates among older workers have even continued to rise during both of the recessions in this decade – a dramatic change from previous experience. On the other hand, the edge that older workers used to have relative to younger workers when it comes to layoffs seems to have disappeared, so the rise in the unemployment rate for older workers in recessions now looks similar to that for younger workers. Of the two forces, the trend growth in labor force participation appears to dominate, which has helped keep the employment rate of older workers from falling during the current recession. This pattern contrasts sharply with the far more typical decline in employment rates for workers under age 55. This brief is organized as follows. The first section discusses the upward trend in the labor force participation of older men. The second section explores why older men may have lost some of their edge with regard to job security. The third section looks at how these two developments – the secular upward trend in labor force participation and the heightened vulnerability to layoffs relative to younger workers – have affected the employment rates of older men in this recession compared to earlier ones. The fourth section concludes.

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File URL: http://crr.bc.edu/briefs/recessions-and-older-workers/
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Center for Retirement Research in its series Issues in Brief with number ib2009-9-2.

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Length: 11 pages
Date of creation: Jan 2009
Date of revision: Jan 2009
Handle: RePEc:crr:issbrf:ib2009-9-2

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References

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  1. Gruber, Jonathan & Orszag, Peter, 2003. "Does the Social Security Earnings Test Affect Labor Supply and Benefits Receipt?," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 56(4), pages 755-73, December.
  2. Courtney C. Coile & Phillip B. Levine, 2006. "Bulls, bears, and retirement behavior," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 59(3), pages 408-429, April.
  3. Daniel Rodriguez & Madeline Zavodny, 2003. "Changes in the age and education profile of displaced workers," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 56(3), pages 498-510, April.
  4. Leora Friedberg & Anthony Webb, 2005. "Retirement and the Evolution of Pension Structure," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 40(2).
  5. T. Schirle, 2007. "Why Have the Labour Force Participation Rates of Older Men Increased Since the Mid 1990s," Working Papers eg0045, Wilfrid Laurier University, Department of Economics, revised 2007.
  6. Henry S. Farber, 2005. "What do we know about Job Loss in the United States? Evidence from the Displaced Workers Survey, 1984-2004," Working Papers 877, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  7. Andy Eschtruth & Jonathan Gemus, 2002. "Are Older Workers Responding To The Bear Market?," Just the Facts jtf-5, Center for Retirement Research.
  8. Steven Haider & David Loughran, 2001. "Elderly Labor Supply: Work or Play?," Working Papers 01-09, RAND Corporation Publications Department.
  9. Leora Friedberg, 1999. "The Labor Supply Effects of the Social Security Earnings Test," NBER Working Papers 7200, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Alan L. Gustman & Thomas L. Steinmeier, 1993. "Employer Provided Health Insurance and Retirement Behavior," NBER Working Papers 4307, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Alan Gustman & Thomas Steinmeier, 2007. "Projecting Behavioral Responses to the Next Generation of Retirement Policies," Working Papers wp153, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
  12. Kevin E. Cahill & Michael D. Giandrea & Joseph F. Quinn, 2008. "A Micro-Level Analysis of Recent Increases in Labor Force Participation Among Older Workers," Working Papers, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College wp2008-8, Center for Retirement Research, revised Feb 2008.
  13. Daniel Rodriguez & Madeline Zavodny, 2000. "Are displaced workers now finished at age forty?," Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, issue Q2, pages 33-48.
  14. Alicia H. Munnell & Steven Sass & Mauricio Soto & Natalia Zhivan, 2006. "Has the Displacement of Older Workers Increased?," Working Papers, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College wp2006-17, Center for Retirement Research, revised Sep 2006.
  15. Jonathan F. Pingle, 2006. "Social Security's delayed retirement credit and the labor supply of older men," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2006-37, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  16. Leora Friedberg & Michael Owyang, 2004. "Explaining the Evolution of Pension Structure and Job Tenure," NBER Working Papers 10714, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Leora Friedberg & Anthony Webb, 2006. "Persistence in Labor Supply and the Response to the Social Security Earnings Test," Working Papers, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College wp2006-27, Center for Retirement Research, revised Dec 2006.
  18. Courtney Coile & Jonathan Gruber, 2000. "Social Security and Retirement," NBER Working Papers 7830, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. Alan L. Gustman & Thomas L. Steinmeier, 2002. "Retirement and the Stock Market Bubble," NBER Working Papers 9404, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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Cited by:
  1. Alan L. Gustman & Thomas L. Steinmeier & Nahid Tabatabai, 2011. "How Did the Recession of 2007-2009 Affect the Wealth and Retirement of the Near Retirement Age Population in the Health and Retirement Study?," NBER Working Papers 17547, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. David Neumark & Patrick Button, 2013. "Did Age Discrimination Protections Help Older Workers Weather the Great Recession?," NBER Working Papers 19216, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Vincenzo Galasso, 2012. "The Political Feasibility of Postponing Retirement," CESifo DICE Report, Ifo Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 10(4), pages 27-31, December.
  4. Alicia H. Munnell & Steven A. Sass & Natalia A. Zhivan, 2009. "Why Are Older Workers At Greater Risk of Displacement?," Issues in Brief ib2009-9-10, Center for Retirement Research, revised May 2009.

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