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Population Research and Policy Review

, Volume 29, Issue 6, pp 893–919 | Cite as

The Retirement Life Course in America at the Dawn of the Twenty-First Century

  • David F. Warner
  • Mark D. Hayward
  • Melissa A. Hardy
Article

Abstract

As the baby boom cohorts expand the number of U.S. retirees, population estimates of the employment, withdrawal and reentry behaviors of older Americans’ remain scarce. How long do people work? How frequently is retirement reversed? How many years are people retired? What is the modal age of retirement? And, how do the patterns for women compare to those for men? Using the 1992–2004 Health and Retirement Study, we estimate multistate working life tables to update information on the age-graded regularities of the retirement life course of men and women in the United States. We find that at age 50 men can expect to spend half of their remaining lives working for pay, while women can expect to spend just one-third. Half of all men and women have left the labor force by ages 63 and 61, respectively. Although the majority of retirement exits are final, variation in the nature and duration of the retirement process is substantial, as about a third of men’s and women’s exits are reversed. By quantifying these patterns for men and women, we provide a sound empirical basis for evaluating policy designed to address the financial pressures population aging places on public and private pension systems.

Keywords

Retirement Disability Labor force Life course Gender Multistate life tables 

Notes

Acknowledgements

Research support was provided to D.F. Warner through National Institute on Aging grants T32AG00048 and T32AG00155 and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development grant T32HD007514. Research support was provided to M.D. Hayward through National Institute on Aging grant R01AG013810. Additional support was provided by grants R01AG11758 and R55AG09311 from the National Institute on Aging and by grants 1R24HD041025 and 5P30HD28263 from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. We thank Don Gensimore for technical assistance and Alan Booth, Tyson H. Brown, Matthew E. Dupre, Glen H. Elder, Jr., Arie Kapteyn, Jessica Kelley-Moore, Valarie King, Diane McLaughlin, and Tara D. Warner for comments on earlier drafts.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • David F. Warner
    • 1
    • 2
  • Mark D. Hayward
    • 3
  • Melissa A. Hardy
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of SociologyCase Western Reserve UniversityClevelandUSA
  2. 2.Center for Family and Demographic ResearchBowling Green State UniversityBowling GreenUSA
  3. 3.Department of Sociology, The Population Research CenterThe University of Texas at AustinAustinUSA
  4. 4.Department of Sociology, Center for Life Course, Health, and Aging ResearchThe Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA

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