Inequalities in Retirement Life Span in the United States.

TitleInequalities in Retirement Life Span in the United States.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2023
AuthorsShi, J, Dudel, C, Monden, C, van Raalte, A
JournalJ Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci
Date Published2023 May 11
ISSN Number1758-5368
KeywordsAged, Educational Status, Employment, Female, Humans, Life Expectancy, Life Tables, Longevity, Male, Middle Aged, Retirement, United States

OBJECTIVES: The length of retirement life may be highly unequal due to persistent and significant discrepancies in old-age mortality. This study assesses gender and educational differences in the average retirement life span and the variation in retirement life span, taking into account individual labor force exit and reentry dynamics.

METHODS: We used longitudinal data from the Health and Retirement Study from 1996 to 2016, focusing on respondents aged 50 and older (N = 32,228). Multistate life tables were estimated using discrete-time event history models. The average retirement life span, as well as absolute and relative variation in retirement life span, were calculated analytically.

RESULTS: Among women, we found a persistent educational gradient in average retirement life span over the whole period studied; among men, the relationship between education and retirement expectancy differed across periods. Women and the lower-educated had higher absolute variation in retirement life span than men and the higher-educated-yet these relationships were reversed when examined by relative variation.

DISCUSSION: Our multistate approach provides an accurate and comprehensive picture of the retirement life span of older Americans over the past two decades. Such findings should be considered in high-level discussions on Social Security. Potential reforms such as raising the eligibility age or cutting benefits may have unexpected implications for different social groups due to their differential effects on retirement initiation and reentry dynamics.

Citation Key13180
PubMed ID36394381
PubMed Central IDPMC10174282
Grant List716323 / ERC_ / European Research Council / International