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Contract Work at Older Ages

Author

Listed:
  • Katharine G. Abraham
  • Brad Hershbein
  • Susan Houseman

Abstract

The share of workers who are self-employed rises markedly with age. Given policy concerns about inadequate retirement savings, especially among those with lower education, and the resulting interest in encouraging employment at older ages, it is important to understand the role that self-employment arrangements play in facilitating work among seniors. New data from a survey module fielded on a Gallup telephone survey distinguish independent contractor work from other self-employment and provide information on informal and online platform work. The Gallup data show that, especially after accounting for individuals who are miscoded as employees, self-employment is even more prevalent at older ages than suggested by existing data. Work as an independent contractor is the most common type of self-employment. Roughly one-quarter of independent contractors age 50 and older work for a former employer. At older ages, self-employment generally—and work as an independent contractor specifically—is more common among the highly educated, accounting for much of the difference in employment rates across education groups. We provide suggestive evidence that differences in opportunities for independent contractor work play an important role in the lower employment rates of less-educated older adults.

Suggested Citation

  • Katharine G. Abraham & Brad Hershbein & Susan Houseman, 2020. "Contract Work at Older Ages," NBER Working Papers 26612, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:26612
    Note: AG LS
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    JEL classification:

    • J26 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Retirement; Retirement Policies
    • J41 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Labor Contracts
    • J46 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Informal Labor Market

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