Older workers are increasingly being pushed out of jobs before they can retire

Older workers are often at the height of earning power, enjoying the fruits of their hard work over a long career. Still, with fewer and fewer workers without a pension, most need to work until age 65. New information shows that there’s no gold watch in their future – in fact, it’s likely they may not be allowed to work until retirement age, despite laws against age discrimination. ProPublica and the Urban Institute performed a data analysis on older U.S. workers and found that over half are pushed out of their jobs before they want to retire.
The analysis used data from the Health and Retirement Study, a nationally representative sample of 20,000 people that since 1992 has followed people once they turn 50 over the rest of their lives. The research concentrated on workers who began their 50s with stable, full-time jobs that they’d held at least five years – those who previous studies had shown to be the “least likely to encounter employment problems.”
And yet the results of the analysis were staggering.
56% of older workers over 50 were found to have been laid off at least once between turning 50 and retiring – either that, or they left jobs under such “financially damaging circumstances” that it’s likely they were pushed out.
  • More than a third who suffered one involuntary job loss will go on to endure more of them.
  • Just 1 in 10 of these employees regained what they earned before being laid off or pushed out. Even years later, their incomes were still recovering.
  • 15% of over-50s in stable jobs quit, later reporting to HRS that their hours, pay, work locations, or treatment on the job had changed – making their leaving not so voluntary at all.
There are 40 million Americans over 50 still working, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. According to ProPublica and the Urban Institute’s analysis, “as many as 22 million of these people have or will suffer a layoff, forced retirement or other involuntary job separation.” Just over 2 million of those have or will recover financially.
“This isn’t how most people think they’re going to finish their out their work lives,” said Richard Johnson, and Urban Institute economist who worked on the analysis. “For the majority of older Americans, working after 50 is considerably riskier than we previously thought.”