2 minute read

Employment of Older Workers

Race, Gender, And Employment

As with younger individuals, the levels and types of labor force activity in later life are related to race and gender. Among the groups considered in Figure 1, white men have the highest rates of labor force participation. Black men have the next highest rate, although the gap between white and black men is as great as 10 percentage Figure 1 Labor Force Participation Rates by Age Group, Gender, and Race: 1998 SOURCE: Author points among those in their fifties and early sixties. This difference is thought to be a result of several factors, including most notably the higher levels of disability among black men (Bound, Schoenbaum, and Waidmann; Hayward, Friedman and Chen). Although not shown in Figure 1, Hispanic men have rates of labor force participation that are as high or higher than those of white men throughout later life (Hobbs and Damon).

White and black women are much more similar to one another in levels of employment than are their male counterparts, but Hispanic women report lower levels of participation than either group. Keeping in mind that standard assessments of employment take into account only work that is paid or generates profit in a business, the figures show that all groups of women are less likely to be employed than are men. An important factor underlying the gender difference in employment is the fact that many women over age fifty in 1998 were not employed outside of the home for significant periods of time when they were younger. Their later-life activity patterns are therefore shaped not only by ongoing family responsibilities but also by the gender role expectations and work experiences accumulated earlier in life (Pienta, Burr, and Mutchler).

Older individuals are also more likely to work part-time than are their younger counterparts. About 90 percent of workers in their forties work full-time, but this percentage is lower among older age groups; fewer than half of workers aged sixty-five and over work full-time (U.S. Bureau of the Census). Working part-time may be motivated by health limitations, the availability of nonwork income, the desire for leisure, or difficulty in finding full-time work. Nevertheless, more than 90 percent of part-time workers in their sixties report that they prefer part-time to full-time work. Thus, older individuals are less likely to work than are younger individuals, and they are more likely to substitute part-time for full-time work. Notably, this process of reducing participation and hours of employment is evident among people as young as fifty years old.

Additional topics

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