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A Micro-Level Analysis of Recent Increases in Labor Force Participation Among Older Workers


  • Kevin E. Cahill
  • Michael D. Giandrea
  • Joseph F. Quinn


Aggregate data reveal a sizable increase in labor force participation rates since 2000 among American workers on the cusp of retirement, reverting back to levels for older men not seen since the 1970s. While these aggregate numbers are useful in that they document overall trends, they do not elucidate the reasons behind workers’ decisions. The Health and Retirement Study (HRS), a nationally-representative, longitudinal survey of older Americans that spans 1992 to 2004, provides micro-level data regarding these retirement trends. Moreover, the HRS contains detailed information about the types of jobs older Americans are taking (e.g., full-time versus part-time, self-employed versus wage-and-salary, low-paying versus high-paying, blue collar versus white collar). 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 multinomial logistic regression to model gradual retirement and logistic and OLS regression to model the work-leisure (whether to work) and hours intensity (how much to work) 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, the retirement decisions of younger and middle-aged retirees appear similar in the face of macro-level changes in the early part of this decade.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:crr:crrwps:wp2008-8

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Courtney C. Coile & Phillip B. Levine, 2006. "Bulls, Bears, and Retirement Behavior," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 59(3), pages 408-429, April.
    2. F. Thomas Juster & Richard Suzman, 1995. " An Overview of the Health and Retirement Study," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 30, pages s7-s56.
    3. Ruhm, Christopher J, 1990. "Bridge Jobs and Partial Retirement," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 8(4), pages 482-501, October.
    4. Coile Courtney, 2004. "Retirement Incentives and Couples' Retirement Decisions," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 4(1), pages 1-30, July.
    5. Nicole Maestas, 2004. "Back to Work: Expectations and Realizations of Work After Retirement," Working Papers wp085, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
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    Cited by:

    1. Michael D. Giandrea & Kevin E. Cahill & Joseph F. Quinn, 2007. "Bridge Jobs: A Comparison across Cohorts," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 670, Boston College Department of Economics, revised 22 Dec 2008.
    2. Vincenzo Galasso, 2012. "The Political Feasibility of Postponing Retirement," ifo DICE Report, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 10(4), pages 27-31, December.
    3. Alicia H. Munnell & Steven A. Sass, 2007. "The Labor Supply of Older Americans," Working Papers, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College wp2007-12, Center for Retirement Research, revised Jun 2007.
    4. Macunovich, Diane J., 2009. "Older Men: Pushed into Retirement by the Baby Boomers?," IZA Discussion Papers 4652, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    5. Brooke Helppie McFall & Amanda Sonnega & Robert J. Willis & Peter Hudomiet, 2015. "Occupations and Work Characteristics: Effects on Retirement Expectations and Timing," Working Papers wp331, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
    6. Macunovich, Diane J., 2009. "Older Women: Pushed into Retirement by the Baby Boomers?," IZA Discussion Papers 4653, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    7. repec:ces:ifodic:v:10:y:2012:i:4:p:19074540 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Alicia H. Munnell & Dan Muldoon & Steven A. Sass, 2009. "Recessions and Older Workers," Issues in Brief ib2009-9-2, Center for Retirement Research, revised Jan 2009.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J26 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Retirement; Retirement Policies
    • J14 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of the Elderly; Economics of the Handicapped; Non-Labor Market Discrimination
    • J32 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Nonwage Labor Costs and Benefits; Retirement Plans; Private Pensions
    • H55 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Social Security and Public Pensions


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