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Market Wages, Reservation Wages, and Retirement Decisions


  • Roger H. Gordon
  • Alan S. Blinder


The paper is an empirical cross-section study of the retirement decisions of American white men between the ages of 58 and 67. predicated on the theoretical notion that an individual retires when his reservation wage exceeds his market wage. Reservation wages are derived from an explicit utility function in which the most critical taste parameter is assumed to vary both systematically and randomly across individuals. Market wages are derived from a standard wage equation adjusted to the special circumstances of older workers. The two equations are estimated jointly by maximum likelihood, which takes into account the potential selectivity bias inherent in the model (low-wage individuals tend to retire and cease reporting their market wage). The model is reasonably successful in predicting retirement decisions, and casts serious doubt on previous claims that the social security system induces many workers to retire earlier than they otherwise would. The normal effects of aging (on both market and reservation wages) and the incentives set up by private pension plans are estimated to be major causes of retirement.

Suggested Citation

  • Roger H. Gordon & Alan S. Blinder, 1980. "Market Wages, Reservation Wages, and Retirement Decisions," NBER Working Papers 0513, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:0513
    Note: LS

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Boskin, Michael J. & Hurd, Michael D., 1978. "The effect of social security on early retirement," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 10(3), pages 361-377, December.
    2. Campbell, Colin D & Campbell, Rosemary G, 1976. "Conflicting Views on the Effect of Old-Age and Survivors Insurance on Retirement," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 14(3), pages 369-388, September.
    3. Weiss, Yoram, 1972. "On the Optimal Lifetime Pattern of Labour Supply," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 82(328), pages 1293-1315, December.
    4. Lazear, Edward P, 1979. "Why Is There Mandatory Retirement?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(6), pages 1261-1284, December.
    5. Burkhauser, Richard V & Turner, John A, 1978. "A Time-Series Analysis on Social Security and Its Effect on the Market Work of Men at Younger Ages," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(4), pages 701-715, August.
    6. Alan S. Blinder & Roger H. Gordon & Donald E. Wise, 1980. "Reconsidering the Work Disincentive Effects of Social Security," NBER Working Papers 0562, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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