Marriage and the Retirement Life Course: Working Life Table Estimates for the U.S. Population over Age 50, by Sex and Marital Status

David F. Warner, Case Western Reserve University
Melissa Hardy, Pennsylvania State University

We know little about how the population-level retirement life course differs by marital status, despite the fact that fewer older Americans are married than in the past. Using the 1992-2004 Health and Retirement Study, we estimate multistate working-life tables to document how marriage shapes the retirement life course of men and women. We find that marriage has implications for the timing, length and permanency of retirement, differentiating the experiences of men and women in opposite ways. Married men spend the most time in the labor force and are more likely to exit permanently. By contrast, divorced men exit earlier, are more likely to be disabled and are more likely to reenter. Among women, the married spend the fewest years in the labor force and divorced women the most. Women generally have higher rates of reentry across marital statuses. Widows and widowers have experiences similar to those of their married counterparts.

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Presented in Session 106: Work and Family in Later Life