How Fast Do Old Men Slow Down?
NBER Working Paper No. 3757
This study uses data on men's track and field and road racing records by age to estimate the rate at which men slow down with age. For most of the running events (400 meters through the half marathon), the slowdown rate per year is estimated to be .80 percent between ages 35 and 51. At age 51 the rate begins to increase. It is 1.04 percent at age 60, 1.46 percent at age 75, and 2.01 percent at age 95. The slowdown rate is smaller for 100 meters. For the events longer than the half marathon, the rate is smaller through about age 60 and then larger after that. The slowdown rate is generally larger at all ages for the field events. Table 2 shows that the age-factors in Masters Age-Graded Tables are excessively variable and biased against older runners. Tables 3 and 5 present the age-factors implied by this study. These tables can be used to estimate one's projected time or distance by age. They can also be used by race officials for age-graded events. A brief comparison of the present results to results in the physiological literature is also presented in this paper. The main estimation technique used is a combination of the polynomialspline method and the frontier-function method. A number of the events have been pooled to provide more efficient estimates.
Published: Review of Economics and Statistics, Vol. 76, no. 1 (1994): 103-118.