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Employment of Older Workers

The Age Profile Of Employment

Among both men and women of all racial and ethnic groups in the United States, employment levels reach a peak in midlife. As teenagers and young adults, work often competes with the pursuit of education and training. For many young adults, paid work also may compete with childbearing and child-rearing activities. However, the vast majority of individuals in their forties are employed.

Figure 1 presents the pattern of labor force participation for people age forty and over in 1998. Labor force participants include not only those who are employed but also those who are unemployed and looking for work. Because the unemployment rate is typically quite low among older individuals, the labor force patterns seen in Figure 1 largely reflect rates of employment. More than 90 percent of white men, 80 percent or more of black men and women, and nearly as large a share of white women in their early forties participate in the labor force. Adults fifty or older are progressively less likely to be employed and, among those sixty to sixty-four years of age, fewer than 60 percent are working. However, some individuals are employed well beyond the normative retirement ages. Close to 30 percent of white men aged sixty-five to sixty-nine and nearly 20 percent of white men aged seventy to seventy-four were still in the labor force in 1998, and rates of participation were only slightly lower for the other groups. These individuals often obtain considerable benefits from their work, including economic resources, identity or status enhancement, or meaningful interpersonal relationships (Parnes and Sommers). Although the precise rates of activity fluctuate from year to year, this patterning across age groups characterized the 1990s and is expected to continue for some time.

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Medicine EncyclopediaAging Healthy - Part 2Employment of Older Workers - The Age Profile Of Employment, Race, Gender, And Employment, Historical Changes In Employment In Later Life