Why do so many older Americans work past retirement age? Can they not afford to retire or do other factors explain their continued participation in the workforce? To further discussions about policy proposals and program expansions, with the potential to improve older adults’ lives, these resources explore why older workers continue to work and provide a snapshot of their labor force participation rates by demographic group and type of occupation.

Educational Differences in Employment at Older Ages. 2017. This chartbook describes trends in older workers’ labor market outcomes from 1970 to 2016 by age, sex, and education, and discusses findings from a descriptive analysis of U.S. census data. It finds that while older adults “are less likely to participate in the labor force…as they age,” their rates of participation have increased from previous decades. “The recent surge in participation rates at older ages reflects higher educational levels among older adults, changes in Social Security rules that increased work incentives, and erosion in defined benefit pension and retiree health insurance coverage from private-sector employers.”

Occupational Projections for Low-Income Older Workers. 2017. This report presents 2014–2024 current and projected employment levels, skill gaps, and occupations for low-income adults over age 50 to inform targeted training and education programs for that population. “The most common occupations and industries for low-income older workers vary by their educational attainment,” but generally, the top three occupations are “office and administrative support,” “sales and related occupations,” and “transportation and material moving.” “Among low-income older workers with less than a high school degree, the data suggest occupational choices may be much more limited.” The authors suggest that “older, low-income workers would benefit from blending…occupational training with basic skills instruction, particularly those basic skills that relate to language and communication.”

Older Workers' Labor Force Transitions from Work to Retirement. 2016. This issue brief describes recent trends in retirement patterns, explains the transition complexities for older workers, identifies a number of significant changes that have increased older worker participation in the labor force, and summarizes the findings from a comprehensive literature review of studies about older workers in the U.S. from 2010 to 2015. The article finds that “[r]etirement is no longer a single, one-time event; rather, it is a gradual move out of the labor force.” “It is unlikely, given ever increasing health care costs, that generous post-retirement health benefits will return….[R]etirement patterns will be a fruitful area of research for years to come. Likewise, policymakers must ensure that policies are in place to safeguard an older workforce and protect the economy as a whole.”