Examines the growing trend of career changes among older workers, including the reasons and consequences of their decisions.

“This report examines the extent and nature of career change by older workers and its consequences for later-life employment. Using data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), the analysis tracks a sample of workers ages 51 to 55 and employed full time in 1992 and computes the percentage who changed employers, occupations, or industries by 2006, when they were ages 65 to 69. In addition, the report measures the impact of personal and job characteristics on the likelihood that older workers switch employers and occupations.

The report also examines how job characteristics such as wages, health insurance coverage, and pension coverage change when older workers move into new careers. Tabulations compare the new and old jobs in terms of occupation, industry, self-employment, flexible work options, part-time work, stressful work conditions, managerial responsibilities, overall job satisfaction, and prestige scores that rank occupations in terms of social standing” (p.ix).

(Abstractor: Author)

Major Findings & Recommendations

“Many workers change jobs and move into new careers as they approach retirement. More than two-fifths (43 percent) of Americans working full time at ages 51 to 55 subsequently change employers, and nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of these job changers move into new occupations. Overall, more than one-quarter (27 percent) of adults working full time at ages 51 to 55 change careers by ages 65 to 69” (p.20). “The likelihood that older workers change jobs and careers varies by a number of factors” identified below. (p.ix) • “When other factors are controlled for, older workers who have completed college and those who did not complete high school are significantly less likely to change careers than high school graduates who did not attend college. • “Late-life occupational change is more common among men because women are less likely than men to continue working if they leave an employer in their fifties. Among those who do change jobs, however, women and men are equally likely to change occupations. • “Defined-benefit pension coverage significantly reduces the likelihood that older workers change jobs” (p.ix-x). • “One in four adults ages 51 to 55 and working full time in 1992 lost their jobs due to layoffs or business closings by 2006 (before the 2007–2009 recession began). Seventy-one percent of these became reemployed, the majority in new occupations. • “One in eight older workers say they left their jobs for health reasons. Older workers with health problems are much less likely to move into new jobs or new careers than those in better health. • “When other factors are controlled for, retirees who take new jobs are nearly twice as likely to move into new occupations as laid-off workers who become reemployed” (p.x). • “Hourly wages are substantially lower on new jobs than former jobs for all older career changers. Median wages fell by 57 percent for retirees, 22 percent for those who were laid off, and 5 percent for those who quit their former jobs” (p.x). (Abstractor: Author)