Retirement Patterns and the Macroeconomy, 1992–2010: The Prevalence and Determinants of Bridge Jobs, Phased Retirement, and Reentry Among Three Recent Cohorts of Older Americans

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Abstract

Purpose of the Study:

Older Americans contemplating retirement today face a very different economic environment than prior cohorts did. This article examines whether the retirement patterns of older Americans have changed as a result.

Design and Methods:

Using data from 10 waves of the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), we examine the prevalence of bridge jobs, phased retirement, and labor market reentry among 3 recent cohorts of older Americans, from 1992 through 2010. Determinants of retirement transitions are examined using bivariate comparisons and multivariate logistic and multinomial logistic regression models.

Results:

We find that traditional one-time, permanent exits from the labor force continue to be the exception rather than the rule and that the retirement patterns of the Early Boomers, those on the cusp of retirement during the recent Great Recession, appear to be diverging from those of earlier cohorts. The Early Boomer women, in particular, were more likely than those in previous cohorts, the HRS Core and the HRS War Babies, to move to a bridge job prior to exiting the labor force completely and both Early Boomer men and women were more likely to leave their career jobs involuntarily, with layoffs being a key factor.

Implications:

The “do-it-yourself” approach to retirement planning—with individuals managing a large portion of their retirement finances—is now common among older Americans. This change in the retirement environment, combined with a significant and persistent cyclical downturn, may have long-lasting effects and suggests that the concept of retirement in the United States will continue to evolve.

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