HwaJung Choi photo

Health and socioeconomic status of early retirees: patterns, differentials, and trends

a MiCDA Research Project Description

Investigators: HwaJung Choi, Robert F. Schoeni

Funding: Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, 2014-2016 (Award Letter)

A significant number of adults in the US claim Social Security retirement benefits before the full retirement age, which reduces their monthly benefits significantly and may lead to subsequent financial strain, particularly for those with limited wealth, no private pensions, and/or large medical expenses. Policy options that include increasing the age at which Social Security benefits can be drawn are often criticized because individuals in greatest need – the disadvantaged – may be least able to extend their working years. Identifying differences in health and socioeconomic status by the timing of retirement will inform research on obstacles to and consequences of older-age employment – both at the individual and federal levels.

We examine differentials in health and socioeconomic status for older adults who retire before, at, and after the full retirement age. Furthermore, we determine whether differentials among these groups have increased over the last roughly 15 years, a time when inequality in income and wealth has increased substantially. Our analyses use data from the nationally representative Health and Retirement Study, from 1998 to 2012. Having this information is especially important now because of growing evidence that (1) the health of adults approaching retirement today is worse than the health of prior cohorts, and (2) the normal/full age of retirement has increased.

Research Signature Theme:

Economics of Saving and Retirement in the U.S.

Country of Focus: USA