Nearly a quarter of the US labor force was over the age of 55 in 2019, an increase of almost ten percentage points from two decades earlier. The long-term growth of the older workforce raises a number of labor market issues, including the role of pensions, retiree health care, Social Security, Medicare, and disability insurance in affecting labor force participation at older ages, employment schedules and working conditions, the relative productivity of older and younger workers, and the demand for older workers across different industries and occupations. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has raised a new set of issues regarding the older workforce. These include the effect of workplace health risk on retirement decisions, the heterogeneity by race, gender, and other dimensions of the labor market experience of older workers, the substitutability of workers in different age groups in specific occupations, and the determinants of return to the labor force after a period of withdrawal.
To promote research on these issues, the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), with the generous support of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, will convene a research conference on “The Labor Market for Older Workers” in Cambridge, MA, on May 19-20, 2022. The conference will be co-organized by NBER researchers Robert Clark (North Carolina State University), Kevin Milligan (University of British Columbia) and Joseph Newhouse (Harvard University). The meeting will bring together researchers in health economics, labor economics, population economics, macroeconomics, and public finance, to better understand both supply and demand factors that determine labor market outcomes for older workers.
Examples of questions that might be addressed include, but are not limited to:
• The impact of defined benefit and defined contribution pension plans on retirement decisions.
• The effect of age on worker productivity in various industries and occupations, and the corresponding impact on the age-earnings profile of compensation.
• The effect of COVID-19 health risk differentials, for example between front-line employees in the retail sector and office workers in other sectors, on labor market decisions.
• Work-from-home opportunities and labor market behavior among older workers.
• The role of family considerations, including retirement of a spouse, care-giving responsibilities for parents, adult children, and grandchildren, on labor force activity.
• The relationship (within industry) of the generosity of employer-sponsored health insurance and the propensity to retire.
The co-organizers welcome both theoretical and empirical research papers on these and other related topics. While the conference will focus on the US experience, papers that distill lessons from other nations that can be applied in the US context may also be considered. Submissions from scholars who are early in their careers, with and without NBER affiliations, and who are members of groups that have been under-represented in economics are especially welcome.
To be considered for inclusion on the program, papers must be uploaded by midnight (EST) on Wednesday, November 10, 2021 to:
Papers that will be published by May 2022 are not eligible for submission. Authors of papers selected for the conference will be notified in December, 2021. The NBER will cover the cost for two authors per paper to participate in the meeting; all co-authors will be invited to attend. Authors will also receive a modest honorarium for participating in the conference, and the organizers will explore the possibility of publishing papers from the conference in a special issue of a refereed journal.
Questions about this conference may be addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org.