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Labor Force Participation and Work Status of People 65 Years and Older

Report Number ACSBR/11-09
Braedyn Kromer and David Howard
Component ID: #ti756824792


Some people of traditional working age (16 to 64 years old) dream of the day when they can retire and pursue other interests, while others may plan to continue working past traditional retirement age. Most assume they will be making this choice around the age of 65. Over the past 20 years, the labor force participation rate of people 65 years and older has increased, particularly during the past decade. As with all age groups, the increase in labor force participation of women has been a driving factor for this overall trend.1

The labor force participation rate increase for those 65 years and older is due to a variety of reasons, including the need for continued participation based on financial responsibilities, as well as the ability to participate given longer life spans.2 According to U.S. Census Bureau projections, the 65 and older population will increase by over 67 percent between 2015 and 2040, representing 21.0 percent of the total population by 2040.3 This report presents historical trends and current characteristics of the older workforce using decennial census and American Community Survey data.

1 According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the labor force participation rate for females 16 years and older increased from 33.9 percent in 1950 to 58.6 percent in 2010, a nearly 25.0 percentage point increase. The labor force participation rate for men 16 years and over declined between 1950 and 2010, from 86.4 percent to 71.2 percent. These estimates are from the Current Population Survey, which can be assessed on the Internet at <>.
2 According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, of workers delaying retirement in 2011, 13.0 percent gave the reason of having “inadequate finances or can’t afford to retire” and 6.0 percent gave the reason of “needing to make up for losses in the stock market.” See <>, (pp. 23–24) and <> for further information.
3 U.S. Census Bureau 2012 National Population Projections, Summary Table 2, which can be accessed at <>.

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