Older Americans and the Workforce
- The percentage of civilian non-institutionalized Americans aged 55 or older who were in the labor force declined from 34.6% in 1975 to 29.4% in 1993. However, since 1993, the labor-force participation rate has steadily increased, reaching 39.4% in 2008—the highest level over the 1975-2008 period.
- Education is a strong factor in an individual’s participation in the labor force at older ages. Individuals with higher levels of education are significantly more likely to be in the labor force than those with the lower levels of education.
- The upward trend among the working near-elderly and elderly is not surprising and is likely to continue because of workers’ need for access to employment-based health insurance and for more earning years to accumulate assets in defined-contribution (401(k)-type) plans — especially after the 2008 downturn in the stock market and economy.
- While some older Americans have a greater need to work to help make their retirement assets last longer or to continue to build up assets, monetary incentives are not the only motivating factor. There also is an increased desire among Americans to work longer, particularly among those with more education, for whom more meaningful jobs may be available that can be done well into older ages.