Working life expectancy at age 50 in the US and the impact of the Great Recession
Demography, 54:6, 2101–2123 (2017)
A key concern about population aging is the decline in the size of the economically active population. Working longer is a potential remedy. However, little is known about the length of working life and how it relates to macroeconomic conditions. We use the US Health and Retirement Study for 1992-2011 and multistate life tables to analyze working life expectancy at age 50 and study the impact of the Great Recession in 2007-2009. Despite declines of 1-2 years following the recession, in 2008-2011 American men aged 50 still spent 13 years, or two-ﬁfths of their remaining life, working; while American women of the same age spent 11 years, or one-third of their remaining life, in employment. Although educational differences in working life expectancy have been stable over the past 20 years, racial differences started changing after the onset of the Great Recession. Our results show that while Americans generally work longer than people in other countries, there is considerable sub-population heterogeneity. We also ﬁnd that the time trends are ﬂuctuating, which may prove troublesome as the population ages. Policies targeting the weakest performing groups may be needed to increase the total population trends.