NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

The Return to Work and Women's Employment Decisions

Nicole Maestas


This chapter is a preliminary draft unless otherwise noted. It may not have been subjected to the formal review process of the NBER. This page will be updated as the chapter is revised.

Chapter in forthcoming NBER book Women Working Longer: Increased Employment at Older Ages, Claudia Goldin and Lawrence F. Katz, editors
Conference held May 21-22, 2016
Forthcoming from University of Chicago Press

It is well documented that individuals in couples tend to retire around the same time. But because women tend to marry older men, this means many married women retire at younger ages than their husbands. This fact is somewhat at odds with lifecycle theory that suggests women might otherwise retire at later ages than men because they have longer life expectancies, and often have had shorter careers on account of childrearing. As a result, the opportunity cost of retirement—in terms of foregone potential earnings and accruals to Social Security wealth—may be larger for married women than for their husbands. Using the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), I find evidence that the returns to additional work beyond mid-life are greater for married women than for married men. The potential gain in Social Security wealth alone is enough to place married women on nearly equal footing with married men in terms of Social Security wealth at age 70.

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