Divergent pathways? Racial/ethnic differences in older women's labor force withdrawal

Tyson H. Brown, David F. Warner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Objectives. The purpose of this study was to investigate how women's labor force withdrawal behavior varies across race/ethnicity and to identify life course factors that generate these differences. Methods. Using a sample of 7,235 women from the 1992-2004 Health and Retirement Study, we estimated cross-sectional multinomial logit models to explore racial/ethnic differences in labor force status at first interview. We then examined the prospective risk of exiting the labor force via retirement, work disability, or death using discrete-time hazard models. Results. Black and Hispanic women had twice the odds of Whites of being work-disabled at first interview. Whereas younger minorities had lower odds of being retired at first interview, older minorities had higher odds. The prospective results showed that both Blacks and Hispanics had higher risks of work disability but not of retirement or of dying in the labor force. Overall, racial/ethnic differences in mid- and later life work behavior stemmed primarily from disparities in life course capital. Discussion. This study shows that substantial racial/ethnic disparities in labor force exit behavior have already emerged by midlife. It is important to note that distinguishing between alternative pathways out of the labor force demonstrates that work disability is a more common experience for Black and Hispanic women than for Whites.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S122-S134
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Gender
  • Life course
  • Race/ethnicity
  • Retirement
  • Work disability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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