Saturday, June 15, 2013

Research: Older Workers are Not Bringing Down Average Wages, Help Workforce Producitivity

According to research from The Brookings Institution, an aging workforce had not dragged down average worker productivity over the past quarter century in the United States. Instead, Gary Burtless, Senior Fellow, Economic Studies, reports in "The Impact of Population Aging and Delayed Retirement on Workforce Productivity," that improved education among the population past 60 and delays in retirement among better educated Americans have tended to boost the earnings of older workers compared with younger ones.
Using one standard benchmark of individual worker productivity—hourly wages—workers between 60 and 74 now earn more than an average worker who is between 25 and 59. The hourly pay premium for older men was about 22 percent in 2011. For older women it was about 10 percent. Other earnings benchmarks show a somewhat less favorable picture, but all of them show considerable improvement in the relative position of aged workers compared with the nonaged over the past two decades. None of the indicators of male productivity suggest that older male workers are less productive than average male workers who are between 25 and 59.
Burtless points to two factors for the surge in older workers’ earnings: (1) the sheer size of the baby boom generation means that the number of Americans attaining age 60 each year is climbing steeply; and (2) labor force participation rates of adults between 60 and 74 have increased.

Burtless also notes that a major reason for the surge in income is that older workers are now better educated compared with prime-age workers than was the case in the past. "Twenty-five years ago the gap in education between prime-age workers and older Americans was large. Americans past 60 had much less schooling than workers who were younger. That gap is now much narrower."

Source: The Brookings Institution UpFront Blog Post (June 10, 2013)

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