The retirement life course in America at the dawn of the twenty-first century

David F. Warner, Mark D. Hayward, Melissa A. Hardy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


As the baby boom cohorts expand the number of U.S. retirees, population estimates of the employment, withdrawal and reentry behaviors of older Americans' remain scarce. How long do people work? How frequently is retirement reversed? How many years are people retired? What is the modal age of retirement? And, how do the patterns for women compare to those for men? Using the 1992-2004 Health and Retirement Study, we estimate multistate working life tables to update information on the age-graded regularities of the retirement life course of men and women in the United States. We find that at age 50 men can expect to spend half of their remaining lives working for pay, while women can expect to spend just one-third. Half of all men and women have left the labor force by ages 63 and 61, respectively. Although the majority of retirement exits are final, variation in the nature and duration of the retirement process is substantial, as about a third of men's and women's exits are reversed. By quantifying these patterns for men and women, we provide a sound empirical basis for evaluating policy designed to address the financial pressures population aging places on public and private pension systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)893-919
Number of pages27
JournalPopulation Research and Policy Review
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Disability
  • Gender
  • Labor force
  • Life course
  • Multistate life tables
  • Retirement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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