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Sloan Center News

Center's research economist, Kevin Cahill, presents at the Western Economics Association Meetings in Seattle, June 30th.

June 25, 2013 — Cahill will present the paper:

are gender differences emerging in the retirement patterns of the early boomers?


Kevin E. Cahill
Michael D. Giandrea (US Bureau of Labor Statistics)
Joseph F. Quinn (Department of Economics, Boston College)

Controlling for career employment later in life, the retirement patterns of men and women in America have resembled one another for much of the past two decades. Is this relationship coming to an end? Older Americans on the cusp of retirement today face very different economic circumstances than their predecessors. The retirement income landscape has solidified its “do-it-yourself” approach, with defined-contribution pension plans dominating and savings rates returning to near-historic lows. The macroeconomic picture has changed as well. After several decades of, by and large, strong growth and low unemployment, today’s older Americans, like all Americans, have endured the “Great Recession” and a historic lackluster recovery that continues to this day. Recent research suggests that the magnitude of these changes appears to have impacted the retirement patterns of the Early Boomers – those currently aged 57 to 62 – as phased retirement, bridge job transitions, and reentry are all substantial components of the way they work later in life. What is more, however, is that gender differences appear to be emerging, after nearly two decades of similarities in the way that career men and women exit the labor force. This paper explores these gender differences in detail to help determine whether we are witnessing a break in trend or merely a blip in the data. We use data on three cohorts of older Americans from the nationally-representative, longitudinal Health and Retirement Study (HRS) that began in 1992. In addition to examining retirement patterns across three cohorts of HRS respondents (HRS Core, War Babies, Early Boomers), we explore by gender the types of job transitions that occur later in life, including occupational changes, switches into and out of self employment, changes in hours worked and wages, and self-identified reasons for leaving career employment. Older Americans are responding to their economic environment by working later in life and exiting the labor force gradually. Several determinants of these decisions (e.g., elder care, Social Security spousal benefits) likely impact men and women differently and could be driving gender differences in retirement paths.

Learn more about the paper »