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Changing U.S. Workforce and Older Workers

Working in collaboration with the Families and Work Institute, data from the National Study of the Changing Workforce were used to examine differences in the employment experiences of male and female older workers and the experiences of older workers and younger workers who are employees, self-employed, and small business owners.

key research questions

  • How do the employment experiences of workers aged 50 and older vary, depending on whether they are wage & salary workers, independent consultants, or small business owners?
  • How do the employment experiences of male and female workers aged 50 and older vary?
  • How do the employment experiences of workers under the age of 50 and those aged 50 and older vary?

selected findings

The Diverse Employment Experiences of Older Men and Women in the Workforce

  • Thirty-eight percent of male workers aged 50 or older have college degrees or more education in comparison to 28% of the females.
  • Male workers aged 50 or older (80%) are more likely than females (62%) to be married/living with a partner.
  • Female workers aged 50 or older (79%) are more likely than males (66%) to live in dual-earner households.
  • Female workers aged 50 or older tend to live in households with lower family incomes than their male counterparts. In 2002, the average (mean) annual income of male workers 50 and older was $66,300 compared with the annual family income of the females.
  • Male workers aged 50 and older devote more time to paid employment each week (47.3 hours) than females (41 hours/week).
  • 65% of male workers aged 50 and older and 62% of females prefer to work fewer hours per week than they currently do.
  • Female workers aged 50 and older earn 55 cents for every dollar that the males earn from all hours worked at all jobs. Comparing hourly rates of pay at main jobs, these women earn 69 cents for every dollar the men earn.
  • 45% of male workers aged 50 or older have access to guaranteed benefits plans at work in comparison to the 35% of the females.
  • 26% of females aged 50 and older and 28% of the males have access to high levels of flexible work options.
  • When thinking about the future, a majority of workers aged 50 or older either want jobs with the same amount of responsibility (66% of the men and 74% of the women) or more responsibility (22% of the men and 14% of the women). A minority wanted jobs with less responsibility.

Context Matters

  • Workers 50 years or older are more likely than younger workers to be independent self-employed workers (17% vs. 12% of younger workers). Given the greater likelihood that these independents have greater degrees of choice and control with regard to their employment experiences, these independents can be considered to be in situations of “extreme flexibility.”
  • Small business owners are much more likely to have flexibility at the workplace than wage/salaried workers, with the self-employed independents falling in between. For example, 91% of the small business owners, 82% of the self-employed independents, and 44% of the wage/salaried workers report that they can periodically choose their own starting & quitting times within some range of hours.
  • Older workers are less likely to be wage/salaried workers than younger workers (74% vs. 8%3).
  • Among workers 50 years or older, those who are small business owners have higher annual earnings ($114.102) than wage/salaried workers ($52,635) or those who are independent self-employed individuals ($78,110).
  • Older workers who are self-employed independents (89%) are less likely than wage/salaried workers (95%) or small business owners (92%) to have health insurance.
  • Older workers who are small business owners tend to spend longer hours at work each week in comparison to those who are wage/salaried workers or self-employed independents: 59% of small business owners spend more than 40 hours per week at work compared to 52% of the wage/salaried workers and 38% of the self-employed independents.
  • Higher percentages of older workers who are self-employed independents (38%) would prefer to work the same hours as they currently do in contrast to the small business owners (34%) or the wage/salaried workers (27%).
  • Older workers who are small business owners are more likely to report that their job offers them opportunities to learn new things, with 75% of small business owners, 69% of the self-employed independents, and 40% of the wage/salaried workers reporting that it is “very true” that their jobs allow them to develop their skills and abilities.

   

publications

contact

For questions of information regarding the Changing US Workforce and Older Workers Project, or to schedule a conversation with any of the Center’s team, please contact: please contact:

617-552-9195 | agework@bc.edu

   

the changing us workforce and older workers project team

James T. Bond
Vice President, Research
Director, Work-Life Research
Families and Work Institute
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Ellen M. Galinsky
President & Co-Founder
Families and Work Institute
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Marcie Pitt-Catsouphes, PhD
Director
Sloan Center on Aging & Work, Boston College 
Associate Professor
Graduate School of Social Work & Carroll School of Management, Boston College
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Michael Smyer, PhD
Provost
Bucknell University
Research Fellow
Sloan Center on Aging & Work, Boston College
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