The Role of Re-entry in the Retirement Process
To what extent do older Americans re-enter the labor force after an initial exit and what drives these “unretirement” decisions? Retirement for most older Americans with full-time career jobs is not a one-time, permanent event. Labor force exit is more likely to be a process. Prior studies have found that between one half and two thirds of career workers take at least one other job before exiting from the labor force completely. The transitional nature of retirement may be even more pronounced when considering the impact of re-entry. This paper examines the extent to which older Americans with career jobs re-entered the labor force. The analysis is based on data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), an ongoing, longitudinal survey of older Americans that began in 1992. We examined the retirement patterns of a subset of 5,617 HRS respondents who were on a full-time career job at the time of the first interview. Logistic regression was used to explore determinants of re-entry among those who initially exited the labor force. We found that approximately 15 percent of older Americans with career jobs returned to the labor force after initially exiting. Respondents were more likely to re-enter if they were younger, were in better health, or had a defined-contribution pension plan. This research provides empirical evidence of how older Americans are utilizing bridge jobs as they transition from career employment, and that re-entry may be an important part of the work experience of older Americans.
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