Describes recent trends in retirement patterns; explains the transition complexities for older workers, and 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 United States from 2010 to 2015.

Retirement patterns have changed substantially in the United States in the last 30 years. During the period from 1900 to 1980, there was a continuous decline in the labor force participation of older individuals. However, this trend has reversed since the 1980s. Americans are now retiring later and expect to continue doing so. Recent research suggests a number of significant changes that have increased the labor force participation of older workers” (p.1).

“These include the following:

  • Americans are more educated and are living longer. Significant increases in educational access were experienced throughout the last century. At the same time, life expectancies have increased steadily since 1900 and are predicted to continue rising.
  • Congress eliminated mandatory retirement. In the 1970s, about half of Americans were covered by mandatory-retirement provisions requiring that they leave their jobs no later than a certain age, usually 65. In 1986, Congress abolished mandatory retirement by amending the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.
  • Social Security raised full retirement age (FRA). The last major reform of the Social Security system occurred in 1983, when the Social Security Amendments…gradually increased the FRA from age 65 to age 67 for workers born after 1937.
  • Employers have changed pension work plans. Increases in the delayed retirement credit and a move from defined- benefit pensions to defined-contribution plans such as 401(k)s have decreased work disincentives.
  • Employer-sponsored post-retirement health coverage has declined. Due to increases in health care costs, fewer firms are providing post-retirement health insurance, and when they do, the retiree has to pay a higher premium” (p.1).

Within this issue brief, [the authors] describe the increasingly complex patterns emerging between older workers and their labor force participation. [Their] findings are based on a comprehensive review of studies released between 2010 and 2015”, including the Employee Benefit Research Institute’s (EBRI) Retirement Confidence Survey (p.1).

After explaining retirement patterns among older workers, the authors then discuss the labor force transitions of older workers and conclude with brief thoughts on future trends and policy priorities.

(Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)

Full publication title: Older Workers’ Labor Force Transitions from Work to Retirement: Findings from Recent Studies, 2010-2015