Declining Wealth and Work Among Male Veterans in the Health and Retirement Study

Alan L. Gustman, Thomas L. Steinmeier, Nahid Tabatabai

NBER Working Paper No. 21736
Issued in November 2015
NBER Program(s):Economics of Aging, Labor Studies, Public Economics

The composition, wealth and employment of male veterans and nonveterans are analyzed for four cohorts from the Health and Retirement Study, ages 51 to 56 in 1992, 1998, 2004 and 2010. Half of the men in the two oldest cohorts served in the military. Only 16 percent of the men in the youngest cohort, the only cohort subject to the All-Volunteer Military, served. One fifth to one third of the members of each cohort who served saw combat, mainly in Viet Nam and in the First Gulf War.

Among those 51 to 56 in 1992, veterans were better educated, healthier, wealthier, and more likely to be working than nonveterans. By the 2010 cohort, 51 to 56 year old veterans had lost their educational advantage over nonveterans, were less healthy, less wealthy and less likely to be working.

After standardizing in multiple regressions for the influence of major observable characteristics, for the original 1992 HRS cohort the wealth of veterans is no longer higher than the wealth of nonveterans. In contrast, the wealth of veterans from the youngest cohort, those 51 to 56 in 2010, remains about 10 to 13 percent below the wealth of nonveterans from that cohort.

There also is a decline from older to younger cohorts of veterans compared to nonveterans in the probability of being not retired, of working more than 35 hours per week, and in the likelihood of holding a job for more than 10 years.

Comparisons are made within the group of veterans by years of service, officer rank and other covariates.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w21736

Published: Alan L. Gustman & Thomas L. Steinmeier & Nahid Tabatabai, 2016. "Declining Wealth and Work among Male Veterans in the Health and Retirement Study," The Journal of Retirement, vol 4(1), pages 77-98.

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