Selected Research & Analysis: Work and Employment > After Claiming Old-Age Benefits
For this working paper, the author uses a merged internal research file of administrative data from the Social Security Administration to examine working and retired-worker benefit claiming behavior at and around Social Security's early eligibility age of 62, by sex. The author defines various combinations of working and benefit-claiming behavior at or near age 62, for which she presents statistics indicating trends in behavior patterns for men and women born in the years from 1937 through 1944. This paper is an introductory companion to the forthcoming ORES Working Paper No. 115, which focuses on men's working and claiming behavior and disaggregates the results by lifetime earnings decile.
Higher labor force participation rates for people aged 62–79 are associated with a dramatic increase in the share of their total money income attributable to earnings. For persons aged 65–69, the earnings share increased from 28 percent in 1980 to 42 percent in 2009. Two decades ago, Social Security benefits and earnings were roughly equal shares of total money income (about 30 percent); the earnings share is now more than 12 percentage points larger. The marked increase in the importance of earnings as an income source is also evident throughout the 62–79 age range among Social Security beneficiaries.
Many observers have noted that the long-term decline in labor force participation by older Americans may reflect the evolution of social institutions that effectively discourage work. Often-cited factors include employer discrimination against older workers, private pension plans that penalize continued employment, and the Social Security system. Various policies, such as eliminating Social Security's retirement test, have been proposed with a view to eliminating or lessening employment barriers.
This paper summarizes the economic evidence that addresses the role played by the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) programs in retirement decisions. OASI is shown to have statistically significant effects on both the timing of retirement and the amount of post-retirement work; however, the influence is not large relative to the many other factors that determine the labor-supply decisions of older workers. Consequently, changes in Social Security policy of the type and magnitude that are politically feasible are unlikely to result in large changes in retirement behavior.
Despite extensive study of the work and retirement decisions of older individuals, the nature of employers' demand for older workers remains relatively unexplored. This paper investigates the plausibility, pervasiveness, and causes of limited employment opportunities for older workers by examining age discrimination, long-term employment relationships, and partial-retirement work options. The central theme is that much of the differential treatment of older workers that persists over time is likely to be part of a privately efficient, economic equilibrium. Provisional implications for Social Security and age-work policy choices are drawn.
Physically Demanding Occupations, Health, and Work After Retirement: Findings From the New Beneficiary Survey
The purpose of this paper is to investigate the effect of the social security system on the labor supply of aged men using U.S. time series data for the period 1947 to 1975. The specific phenomena to be explained is the dramatic decrease in the labor supply of aged men during this period. Between 1947 and 1975, the annual labor force participation rate of men 65 and over decreased from 47.8 percent to 21.7 percent—a decrease of 55 percent. In terms of annual hours worked per capita for men 65 and over, there was a decrease from about 880 hours to 312 hours during this period—a decrease of 65 percent. The specific focus of the analysis will be on the relative importance of social security in explaining this decrease in labor supply.