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June 2011, Vol. 134, No. 6
Reentering the labor force after retirement
Kevin E. Cahill, Michael D. Giandrea, and Joseph F. Quinn
Kevin E. Cahill is a research economist at the Sloan Center on Aging & Work at Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA; Joseph F. Quinn is the James P. McIntyre Professor of Economics in the Department of Economics at Boston College and is also affiliated with the Sloan Center on Aging & Work; Michael D. Giandrea is a research economist in the Office of Productivity and Technology, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Washington, DC. Email: email@example.com. All views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation supported this research through a grant to the Sloan Center on Aging & Work at Boston College.
Data from the longitudinal Health and Retirement Study indicate that approximately 15 percent of older Americans with career jobs returned to the labor force after having retired; respondents were more likely to reenter the workforce if they were younger, were in better health, or had a defined-contribution pension plan
For most older Americans with fulltime career jobs, retirement is not a one-time, permanent event. Instead, their exits from the labor force are more gradual, with many career workers moving to another job before leaving the labor force completely. 1 Jobs that follow full-time career employment and precede complete withdrawal from the labor force are commonly known as bridge jobs. The prevalence and determinants of bridge jobs have been studied extensively in the literature on retirement. In a summary of such literature from the 1970s and 1980s, Joseph Quinn, Richard Burkhauser, and Daniel Meyers concluded that, for many older Americans, retirement is a process. 2 Data from the Retirement History Survey (RHS), a longitudinal dataset of older American men and unmarried women conducted from 1969 to 1979, show that the majority of older career workers had changed jobs or exited and reentered the labor force following career employment, where "career" was defined as the longest spell of employment with a single firm. 3
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1 See Joseph F. Quinn, "Retirement Patterns and Bridge Jobs in the 1990s," EBRI Issue Brief No. 206 (Washington, DC, Employee Benefit Research Institute, February 1999), http://www.ebri.org/publications/ ib/index.cfm?fa=ibDisp&content_id=119 (visited June 24, 2008), and "New Paths to Retirement," in Brett Hammond, Olivia Mitchell, and Anna Rappaport, eds., Forecasting Retirement Needs and Retirement Wealth (Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000), pp. 13–32; Kevin E. Cahill, Michael D. Giandrea, and Joseph F. Quinn, "Retirement Patterns from Career Employment," The Gerontologist, August 2006, pp. 514–23; Michael D. Giandrea, Kevin E. Cahill, and Joseph F. Quinn, "Bridge Jobs: A Comparison Across Cohorts," Research on Aging, September 2009, pp. 549–76; and Jan E. Mutchler, Jeffrey A. Burr, Amy M. Pienta, and Michael P. Massagli, "Pathways to Labor Force Exit: Work Transitions and Work Instability," Journal of Gerontology, January 1997, pp. S4–S12.
2 Joseph F. Quinn, Richard V. Burkhauser, and Daniel A. Myers, Passing the Torch: The Influence of Economic Incentives on Work and Retirement (Kalamazoo, MI, W. E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, 1990).
3 Christopher J. Ruhm, "Bridge Jobs and Partial Retirement," Journal of Labor Economics, October 1990, pp. 482–501.
Older workers: increasing their labor force participation and hours of work.—Jan. 2008.
How do older Americans spend their time?—May 2007.
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