Presents a chartbook of trends to show changes in older workers’ labor market outcomes from 1970 to 2016—by age, sex, and education—and discusses findings from a descriptive analysis of US census data.

“Working longer can significantly improve the lives of older adults. Extending the work life and delaying retirement benefit take-up can bolster financial security at older ages.…[A]dults who work longer can receive higher monthly Social Security benefits, accumulate more employer-sponsored pensions, save part of their additional earnings, and shrink the period over which their retirement savings are spread. [Research shows] that average annual retirement incomes rise 9 percent when older adults work an additional year and 56 percent when they work an additional five years” (p.1).

“Older workers with limited education, however, generally drop out of the labor force earlier than workers with more education. Less-educated people tend to work less at older ages because many have health problems and work in physically demanding jobs….As economic security in old age increasingly depends on delaying retirement, less-educated older adults who retire early will likely face financial challenges in later life and fall further behind their better educated counterparts….

This chartbook reports trends in four labor market outcomes—labor force participation (defined as working or actively looking for work), full-time employment, self-employment, and earnings—and shows how they differ by age, sex, and education. Appendix tables provide detailed statistics. The data, running from 1970 to 2016, come from the Annual Social and Economic Supplement of the Current Population Survey, designed by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics and fielded by the US Census Bureau” (p.1).

(Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)

Major Findings & Recommendations

“The results show that labor force participation rates have increased substantially since 1995 for men and women age 62 and older. Participation at ages 62 to 64 grew for all educational groups, although men and women with college degrees remain much more likely to participate in the labor force than those with less education. Participation gains over the past two decades at age 65 and older were concentrated among college graduates. Nearly all the employment gains at older ages came from full-time work, not part-time work. Better-educated older adults are more likely to work full time and work for themselves than their less-educated peers. The share of workers who are self-employed increases with age, although self-employment rates have fallen over the past two decades” (p.1). The charts presented in this report demonstrate recent surges in labor force participation: • “Older adults are less likely to participate in the labor force—work or look for work—as they age” (p.2) but their rates of participation have increased from previous decades. • “Between 1970 and 1995, the share of men in their 60s participating in the labor force fell sharply” (p.4), but between 1995 and 2016, the share increased sharply (p.5). • “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” (p.5). • Likewise, while older women’s participation in the labor force did not change much in the 1970s and 1980s, their participation increased sharply between 1995 and 2016. The report makes note of gender differences in employment: • “Men are more likely to participate in the labor force than women throughout life, and the differences are especially significant at older ages” (p.2). • “Full-time employment increased substantially for older women in all educational groups [although women] age 65 and older are only about half as likely to work full time as their male counterparts” (p.12). The charts also display trends in earnings: • Earnings for working older adults have increased. “Between 1995 and 2015, inflation-adjusted earnings for full-time workers age 65 and older increased 44 percent for men and 62 percent for women” (p.15). • “Older adults’ educational gains have led to higher earnings over the past two decades” (p.15). (Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)