By Peter Gosselin, Dec. 27, 2018
Today, in partnership with ProPublica, the Urban Institute and Hunter College’s Brookdale Center, I’m reporting that more than half of older U.S. working people – those 50 and over – get laid off or pushed out of career positions on their way to retirement. Few ever again make what they did before these setbacks, and their household incomes still bear marks of the damage years after the fact.
Taken together, these findings show how hard it is to keep working while older in America.
I’m a senior fellow at Brookdale, a contributing reporter with ProPublica and a journalist who’s spent more than four decades seeking to generate the quantitative base and find the human face of trends that shape Americans’ lives, even without them knowing it.
The findings we’re reporting today grow out of work by Urban Institute economist Richard W. Johnson and me that uses the Health and Retirement Study, or HRS, the premier source of quantitative information on about aging in America.
Since 1992, the National Institutes of Health study has followed a nationally representative sample of about 20,000 people from the time they turn 50 through the rest of their lives.
Through 2016, our analysis has found that between the time older workers enter the study and when they leave paid employment, 56 percent are laid off at least once or leave jobs under such financially damaging circumstances that it’s likely they were pushed out rather than choosing to go voluntarily.
Only one in 10 of these workers ever again earns as much as they did before their employment setbacks, our analysis showed. Even years afterward, the household incomes of over half of those who experience such work disruptions remain substantially below those of workers who don’t.
“This isn’t how most people think they’re going to finish out their work lives,” said Johnson, a veteran scholar of the older labor force. “For the majority of older Americans, working after 50 is considerably riskier and more turbulent than we previously thought.”
Research for the stories and the Urban report was funded by ProPublica and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The views expressed in the report and the backup data are those of the authors and should not be attributed to ProPublica, the Urban Institute, its trustees, or its funders.