Reflections on Labor Mobility over the Life Cycle
The main intention of this essay is to survey the recent literature on the retirement decision. It seemed that a study of retirement would be misleading unless it were coupled with the entire path leading to this decision. Pursuit of this more ambitious goal was made feasible by several recent surveys and articles on retirement and the discovery of key concepts in the literature on labor market mobility. This essay would be incoherent if the dramatic demographic, technological and institutional changes over the past 20 years were ignored. Many of the significant fluctuations in retirement behavior are natural responses to variations in the structure of the economy. It would seem that any analysis of labor market behavior which ignored these environmental connections might conclude that the behavior was inscrutable and/or non-economic. Therefore, we begin with a brief discussion of these structural changes over the past 20 years. The labor markets response to these underlying fluctuations is reviewed with the effects on retirement highlighted. Novel economic methods have been designed to analyze labor markets in oscillating environments. The main portion of our reflections address some of these ingenious innovations. It would be usual to separate these ideas into theoretical and econometric contributions. An important development underway in labor economics is an attempt to eliminate this dichotomy. This research is surveyed last.
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