Aging and Labor Force Participation: A Review of Trends and Explanations
NBER Working Paper No. 3420
The American population is aging rapidly. Persons 65 and over who now constitute about one-fifth of the population will constitute about two-fifths of the population by 2040. In addition, individuals are living longer. Yet the labor force participation of older Americans has fallen dramatically in recent years. This paper discusses this trend and the principal arguments put forth to explain it. The paper is in two parts. The first part reviews trends in labor force participation and associated trends in Social Security (SS) coverage, firm pension plan coverage, and other factors that are likely to be associated with the labor force participation trends, including demographics. The second part of the paper discusses the incentive effects of SS and retirement plans, with emphasis on firm pension plans.