Retirement in America: Working Life Table Estimates for the Population over Age 50, by Sex and Race

David F. Warner, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Mark D. Hayward, University of Texas at Austin
Melissa Hardy, Pennsylvania State University

Population-level analyses are sorely needed to document trends in labor force participation and gauge the increased demand for public and private pensions that will accompany population aging. Using data from the 1992-2002 Health and Retirement Study, we estimate a series of sex- and race- specific multistate working life tables for the population over age 50. We find that at age 50 men can expect to spend 46% of their remaining years working for pay and women can expect to spend just one-third. More than half of all men and women have left the labor force before ages 63 and 60, respectively, although about one-fifth of retirements are reversed. The non-working years are experienced differently across sex and race groups as well. Blacks overall spend proportionately more years disabled, and the rate of reentry from retirement is lowest for Black males. We discuss our findings with an eye toward the pension policy debate.

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Presented in Session 7: Determinants of Retirement in the U.S.