The Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) has released the results of a research study finding that the labor-force participation rate is increasing for older Americans (those age 55 and older) as older workers are faced with higher health costs and economic losses. As published in the February 2010 issue of EBRI Notes, "Labor Force Participation Rates: The Population Age 55 and Older, 2008" used U.S. Census Bureau data to determine that while the percentage of civilian noninstitutionalized Americans aged 55 or older who were in the labor force declined from 34.6% in 1975 to 29.4% in 1993, the labor-force participation rate has steadily increased since then, reaching 39.4% in 2008—-the highest level over the 1975–2008 period.
In addition, according to a summary of the findings, for those aged 55–64, the increase in participation is is being driven almost exclusively by the increase of women in the work force; the male participation rate is flat to declining. For those aged 65 and older, however, labor-force participation is increasing for both men and women.
EBRI also reports that education is a strong factor in an individual’s participation in the labor force at older ages, with individuals with higher levels of education being significantly more likely to be in the labor force than those with lower levels of education. EBRI also suggests that the upward trend is likely to continue because of workers’ need for access to employment-based health insurance and for more earning years to accumulate assets in defined contribution (401(k)-type) plans. EBRI also noted that monetary needs are not the only driver, and that there is an increased desire among Americans to work longer, particularly among those with more education, for whom more meaningful jobs may be available that can be done well into older ages.
Source: Employee Benefit Research Institute Press Release (February 18, 2010)