Project Summary

About one in five workers over the age of 50 are self-employed, and this rate increases with age: About half of workers over the age of 80 work for themselves. Using nationally representative data from the Health and Retirement Study and other sources, Dr. Halvorsen pursues projects related to the human, social, and financial capital of self-employed older adults, as well as the barriers, risks, and opportunities related to this precarious—yet potentially rewarding—type of work.

Key Findings

  • About one in five workers over the age of 50 work for themselves, and this rate increases with age.
  • Older men are more likely to be self-employed than older women. 
  • The diversity of self-employed older adults increases with age, indicating that key social safety net programs—such as Social Security retirement benefits and Medicare—protect against the risks of self-employment.
  • Among Americans ages 50 to 70, a diverse group of people are highly interested in becoming entrepreneurs, counter to the less diverse group of people who actually become entrepreneurs. This raises the need to better investigate and address disparities in entrepreneurial opportunities later in life.

Principal Investigator

Project Support

Initial funding from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College Dissertation Fellowship Program, funded by the U.S. Social Security Administration.

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