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July 15, 2004

Boomers’ unexpected ethos: work until we drop?

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Baby boomers are not going gently into retirement, a new study suggests.

Men and women in their 50s today are much more likely than earlier groups of fifty-somethings to say they will be working full-time after the traditional retirement age of 65. That is one of the findings highlighting the changing landscape of aging in America presented this week in Washington at a Congressional briefing sponsored the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research (ISR) and the Consortium of Social Science Associations.

The presentations are based on data from the ISR Health and Retirement Study, funded by the National Institute on Aging. Started in 1992, the study surveys more than 22,000 Americans over the age of 50 every two years, on topics including physical and mental health, insurance coverage, financial status, family support systems, labor market status, and retirement planning.

U-M economist Robert Willis, who directs the Health and Retirement Study, addressed "Will the Boomers be working or retiring in 2010? And why do we care?" His findings, including a preliminary analysis of 2004 data, provide a window into the future on the crucial issue of whether the Boomers will retire early or late. Willis compared the work and retirement expectations of nationally representative samples of 51- to 56-year-old men and women with various educational levels surveyed in 1992, 1998 and 2004.

"Past research shows that subjective expectations tend to be fairly accurate, and that there is a strong relationship between measures of expected retirement and actual retirement," Willis said.

The new analysis provides good news for Social Security and Medicare, showing an across-the-board increase in the proportion who see their working lives lasting well into their sixties. The largest jump occurs among men with some college. In that group, 32.4 percent surveyed in 1992 expected to be working full-time after age 65, compared with 46.3 percent who were surveyed in 2004.


Left-click on the chart to open a 300 dpi version of it.

Established in 1948, the Institute for Social Research (ISR) is among the world's oldest survey research organizations, and a world leader in the development and application of social science methodology. ISR conducts some of the most widely-cited studies in the nation, including the Survey of Consumer Attitudes, the National Election Studies, the Monitoring the Future Study, the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, the Health and Retirement Study, the Columbia County Longitudinal Study and the National Survey of Black Americans. ISR researchers also collaborate with social scientists in more than 60 nations on the World Values Surveys and other projects, and the Institute has established formal ties with universities in Poland, China, and South Africa. Visit the ISR Web site at www.isr.umich.edu for more information. ISR is also home to the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR), the world's largest computerized social science data archive.

 

Contact: Diane Swanbrow
Phone: (734) 647-9069
E-mail: swanbrow@umich.edu