According to an EBRI report, older workers (those 55 and older) are a growing presence in the U.S. work force, a trend
driven mainly by women. The April 2014 EBRI Notes—"Labor-force Participation Rates of the Population Ages 55 and Older, 2013"—finds that the labor-force participation rate for those ages 55 and older rose throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s, and that, for those aged 55–64, the upward trend was driven almost exclusively by the increased labor-force participation of women. For men, the participation rate was flat to declining. For workers 65 or older, participation rates increased for both men and women.
EBRI attributes the upward trend in labor-force participation to workers’ current need for continued access to employment-based health insurance, as well as for the need for more years of earnings to accumulate savings in defined contribution plans and/or to pay down debt. It also notes that "[m]any Americans also want to work longer, especially those with more education for whom more meaningful jobs are available that can be performed into older ages."
The EBRI report is less clear about how differing participation rates affect the generations. Thus, younger workers’ labor-force participation rates increased when that of older workers declined or remained low during the late 1970s to the early 1990s. However, as younger workers’ rates began to decline in the late 1990s, those for older workers continuously increased. "Consequently, it appears either that older workers filled the void left by younger workers’ lower participation, or that higher older-worker participation limited the opportunities for younger workers or discouraged them from participating in the labor force."
Source: EBRI Press Release (April 16, 2014)