What You Need to Know
- While the average American worker can work into their 70s, the average doesn't tell the whole story, according to the Center for Retirement Research.
- Rising rates of mortality and incarceration in some groups and a leveling off of educational gains are slowing the growth of working life expectancy.
- This could impede efforts to get people to work longer.
With Social Security’s full retirement age pushed to 66 years (and 67 for those born in 1960 and later), it makes sense that people have been working longer. Research has found that just a few extra months in the workforce can greatly improve retirement security.
But for many Americans — especially among Black workers and those with less education — staying on the job longer isn’t an option. Since 2010, growth in working life expectancies has stalled or reversed in these groups, according to a new paper by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.
The paper, “Are Older Workers Capable of Working Longer?” by researchers Laura D. Quinby and Gal Wettstein, says this is a “concerning” trend and “while working life expectancy has improved among the more highly educated, lower-educated individuals — with the exception of Black women — have experienced stagnation.
“This pattern suggests that calls for older workers to delay retirement, which have proved successful over the past couple of decades, may be less fruitful going forward.”
Why the Slowdown?
There are several reasons for the changing trend, the researchers state. One is that the rise in education levels “has largely played out.” Another, especially pertaining to the Black population, is rising incarceration rates, especially among middle-aged men.
But perhaps a key reason is the mortality rate among the working-age population. The rise in life expectancy was largely due to gains in the older population, the paper states. However, new data suggests a decline in prime-age life expectancy for less-educated whites.