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Labor Market Status of Older Males in the United States, 1880-1940

  • Chulhee Lee

This paper examines the labor market status of older males in the era of industrialization, focusing on the question of how the extent of pressure toward retirement varied across different occupations, and how it changed over time. A comparison of hazard of retirement across occupations shows that men who had better occupations in terms of economic status and work conditions were less likely to retire than were those with poorer jobs. This result tends to reject the recent view that retirement was more voluntary than forced as early as a century ago. The difficulty faced by older workers in the labor market, as measured by the relative incidence of long-term unemployment, was relatively severe among craftsmen, operatives, and salesmen. In constrast, aged farmers, professionals, managers, and proprietors appear to have fared well in the labor market. The pattern of shifts in the occupational structure that occurred between 1880 and 1940 suggests that industrialization had brought a growth of the sectors in which the pressure toward departure from employment at old ages was relatively strong.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 9550.

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Date of creation: Mar 2003
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Lee, Chulhee. "Labor Market Status of Older Males in the United States, 1880-1940." Social Science History 29, 1 (2005): 77-105.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9550
Note: DAE LS
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  1. Costa Dora L., 1995. "Agricultural Decline and the Secular Rise in Male Retirement Rates," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 32(4), pages 540-552, October.
  2. Costa, Dora L, 1995. "Pensions and Retirement: Evidence from Union Army Veterans," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 110(2), pages 297-319, May.
  3. Lee, Chulhee, 1999. "Farm Value and Retirement of Farm Owners in Early-Twentieth-Century America," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 36(4), pages 387-408, October.
  4. Lee, Chulhee, 1998. "Long-Term Unemployment and Retirement in Early-Twentieth-Century America," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 58(03), pages 844-856, September.
  5. Robert William Fogel, 1993. "New Sources and New Techniques for the Study of Secular Trends in Nutritional Status, Health, Mortality, and the Process of Aging," NBER Historical Working Papers 0026, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Boskin, Michael J, 1977. "Social Security and Retirement Decisions," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 15(1), pages 1-25, January.
  7. Moen, Jon, 1987. "The Labor of Older Men: A Comment," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 47(03), pages 761-767, September.
  8. Dora L. Costa, 1998. "The Evolution of Retirement," NBER Chapters, in: The Evolution of Retirement: An American Economic History, 1880-1990, pages 6-31 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Simon Kuznets, 1933. "Seasonal Variations in Industry and Trade," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number kuzn33-1, December.
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