Self-employment in later life: Implications for financial, physical, and mental well-being

TitleSelf-employment in later life: Implications for financial, physical, and mental well-being
Publication TypeThesis
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsHalvorsen, C
Academic DepartmentSocial Work
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy
UniversityWashington University in St. Louis
CitySt. Louis, MO
Thesis TypeDissertation
KeywordsEmployment and Labor Force, Self-employment, Well-being

More than one in five working Americans aged 50 and older are self-employed, yet scholarship that examines the relationships between self-employment and personal health and financial well-being is limited. Using data from six biennial waves of the Health and Retirement Study, a nationally-representative panel study of Americans past 50 years of age, this quasi-experimental dissertation documents the characteristics of self-employed older adults in comparison to wage-and-salary workers, as well as compares self-employed and wage-and-salary workers in later life on a set of financial well-being and personal health outcomes. This study incorporates inverse probability of treatment weighting (also referred to as propensity score weighting) to control for selection into the “treatment” of concern, self-employment. Among older Americans, this dissertation revealed that age, being male, reporting better health, and having higher levels of risk tolerance were predictive of self-employment, among other factors. Further, it found strong evidence that self-employment leads to reduced earnings from work, with some evidence that it increases health and wealth. This dissertation builds upon previous work while contributing to discussions about the causal effects of later-life self-employment, as well as program and policy developments to support longer working lives.

Citation Key10013