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Sectoral Shift and Labor Force Participation of Older Males in the United States, 1880-1940

  • Chulhee Lee


A Traditional explanation for the fall in the labor force participation of older males in the era of industrialization is that it was in part produced by the decline in agriculture. A number of recent studies rejected this view based on the result that farmers were no less likely to retire than were nonfarmers. An examination of a longer period, however, shows that farmers were less likely to retire than were nonfarmers, as the conventional view suggests. Only the first decade of the twentieth century, which the revisionist view drew evidence from, exhibits the opposite pattern. This peculiarity of the years between 1900 to 1910 is likely to have resulted from the unusually high appreciation of farm property during the same period that would have stimulated retirement of farmers. According to the counterfactual LFPR of older males that would have resulted had there been no decline in the relative size of agriculture since 1820, the decrease in the labor force employed in farming accounts for about 20 percent of the fall in the LFPR of men 60 and older between 1880 and 1940.

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Paper provided by Institute of Economic Research, Seoul National University in its series Working Paper Series with number no25.

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Date of creation: Dec 1999
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:snu:ioerwp:no25
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  1. 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.
  2. Alan Krueger & Jorn-Steffen Pischke, 1989. "The Effect of Social Security on Labor Supply: A Cohort Analysis of the Notch Generation," Working Papers 635, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  3. 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.
  4. Jonathan Gruber & David A. Wise, 1999. "Social Security and Retirement around the World," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number grub99-1, July.
  5. Clarence D. Long, 1958. "The Labor Force Under Changing Income and Employment," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number long58-1, July.
  6. Chulhee Lee, 1999. "Farm Value and Retirement of Farm Owners in Early-Twentieth-Century America," Working Paper Series no15, Institute of Economic Research, Seoul National University.
  7. Dora L. Costa, 1994. "Agricultural Decline and the Secular Rise in Male Retirement Rates," NBER Historical Working Papers 0055, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Carter, Susan B. & Sutch, Richard, 1996. "Myth of the Industrial Scrap Heap: A Revisionist View of Turn-of-the-Century American Retirement," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 56(01), pages 5-38, March.
  9. Boskin, Michael J, 1977. "Social Security and Retirement Decisions," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 15(1), pages 1-25, January.
  10. Parsons, Donald O, 1980. "The Decline in Male Labor Force Participation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 88(1), pages 117-34, February.
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