The Urban Institute

To support research on employment prospects for less-educated older workers

  • Amount $423,824
  • City Washington, DC
  • Investigator Richard Johnson
  • Year 2012
  • Program Research
  • Sub-program Working Longer

Men born between 1940 and 1944, who have no more than high school diplomas, are nearly 50 percent more likely than college graduates to claim Social Security benefits at age 62. There are many reasons why less-educated older adults retire early. Workers with limited education have greater incidences of poor health and histories of physically demanding work and are more apt to be employed in the public sector and unionized workplaces, where defined benefit pension plans often discourage work at older ages. But little is known about which of these or other factors are most important in the decision of older Americans with limited educations to end work early. Even less is known about the nature of the work trajectories of those with limited educations who go on to work after 62. This grant supports research by The Urban Institute's Richard Johnson, to investigate these questions. Combining data on detailed job characteristics from the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Information Network (O*Net) with household survey data from the Health and Retirement Study, American Community Survey, and the 1980, 1990, and 2000 decennial censuses, Johnson will investigate how job characteristic and employment and earnings patterns vary by education and how those patterns have changed over the last 30 years. In addition to the research, additional grant funds will support an expert roundtable to discuss the findings and their potential implications for the future course of public policy.

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