The More Things Change, The More They Stay the Same: Trends in Long-term Employment in the United States, 1969-2002

Ann Huff Stevens

NBER Working Paper No. 11878
Issued in December 2005
NBER Program(s):Labor Studies

This study considers whether there has been a decline in the attachment of workers and firms in the United States over the past several decades. Specifically, it compares snapshots of job tenure taken at the end of workers' careers from 1969 to 2002, using data from the Retirement History Survey, the National Longitudinal Survey of Older Men, and the Health and Retirement Study. The primary finding is one of stability in the prevalence of long-term employment relationships for men in the United States. In 1969, average tenure in the longest job for males aged 58-62 was 21.9 years. In 2002, the comparable figure was 21.4 years. Just over half of men ending their careers in 1969 had been with a single employer for at least 20 years; the same is true in 2002. This finding is robust to adjustments for minor differences in question details across data sources and for educational and retirement age changes over this time period.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w11878

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