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The puzzle of later male retirement


  • Richard Johnson


For decades until 1985, the share of older American men who worked for pay trended downward. Since 1985, though, that share has been stable or rising. By 2001, the new trend in male retirement behavior had added 2 million workers to the U.S. labor force. Since the number of older men in the United States will increase dramatically as the baby-boom generation ages, the new trend could become even more significant for the U.S. economy in the future.> Understanding male retirement behavior is important to both monetary and fiscal policymakers. Later retirement affects monetary policy by increasing potential output. It also affects fiscal balances by boosting tax revenues and reducing the cost of earnings-tested benefits such as Disability Insurance and Medicaid.> Economists have put forth several theories to explain why American men are retiring later. One theory is that Social Security reforms have encouraged older men to work more. Another is that the decline in the number of workers with defined-benefit pensions has enabled men to continue working longer. A third theory is that the slower growth of the overall U.S. labor force has increased older men’s employment opportunities.> Johnson tests whether these theories explain the changed male retirement trend. He concludes that Social Security reforms have increased the labor supply of men aged 65 and older, but that the abrupt change in the trend of male retirement ages in 1985 remains a puzzle.

Suggested Citation

  • Richard Johnson, 2002. "The puzzle of later male retirement," Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, issue Q III, pages 5-26.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedker:y:2002:i:qiii:p:5-26:n:v.87no.3

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Samwick, Andrew A., 1998. "New evidence on pensions, social security, and the timing of retirement," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(2), pages 207-236, November.
    2. Joseph F. Quinn, 1999. "Has the Early Retirement Trend Reversed?," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 424, Boston College Department of Economics.
    3. 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 755-773, December.
    4. Jeff Dominitz & Charles F. Manski & Jordan Heinz, 2002. "Social Security Expectations and Retirement Savings Decisions," NBER Working Papers 8718, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Steven Haider & David Loughran, 2001. "Elderly Labor Supply: Work or Play?," Working Papers 01-09, RAND Corporation.
    6. Steven Haider & David S Loughran, 2000. "Elderly Labor Supply Work or Play?," Working Papers DRU-2582, RAND Corporation.
    7. Alan L. Gustman & Thomas L. Steinmeier, 1998. "Changing Pensions in Cross-Section and Panel Data: Analysis with Employer Provided Plan Descriptions," NBER Working Papers 6854, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Todd E. Clark & Taisuke Nakata, 2006. "The trend growth rate of employment : past, present, and future," Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, issue Q I, pages 43-85.

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    Retirement ; Social security;


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