Workplace Characteristics and Employment of Older Workers

Chinhui Juhn, Kristin McCue

NBER Retirement Research Center Paper No. NB 12-18
Issued in September 2012

As aging of the U.S. population places increased demands on public programs such as Social Security, an important question is how long older Americans are willing and able to work before they retire from the labor force. While studies based on household surveys have provided information on the role of savings, health status, pension and health insurance coverage, there is relatively little information on how workplace and firm level characteristics affect the employment of older workers. In this study we use linked employer-employee data to explore the relationship between the characteristics of jobs held at age 55 and early retirement. We focus on a sample of 63 year olds drawn from the 2005-2008 American Community Survey. We match this sample to information on their earnings, employment, employers and coworkers drawn from the Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics data for the years in which they age from 55 to 63. We use employment status as reported in the ACS to split the sample into those those who have retired by age 63 and those who continue to work. We then examine differences between early retirees and continuing workers in the characteristics of their employment at age 55, and at how these characteristics change as they approach age 63. We find that early retirees are more likely to be employed by larger employers at age 55 than are continuers. They work for employers with somewhat higher pay than do continuers, and are less likely to have young coworkers.

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