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Life after early retirement: the experiences of lower-level workers.

Because of the social security and private pension systems, older people are less likely to be without an income than any other group in America. Older workers are also less likely to be unemployed than any other group. The basic statistics on which these statements are based mask the serious concerns of older people in America today.

In their book, Life After Early Retirement: The Experience of Lower-Level Workers, the authors focus on the effects of inflation and lack of adequate private pension and social security benefit indexing, of rising health care costs, and the lack of life-long health benefits for the elderly. This information is based on a survey of more than 800 retirees of three corporations--a utility, a chain store, and a manufacturer. The authors' survey presents evidence of all three problems, including supporting commentary by respondents in their sample.

The casual approach of this book keeps the interest of the nontechnical reader more easily than some of the more rigorous empirical work in the area of retirement behavior and policy. Many readers will find that the cross-tabulations of the survey responses and the anecdotes provide insight into the effect of retirement on the lives of workers.

Nevertheless, the work would have been considerably improved if the results the authors obtained from their survey had been reinforced by national statistic on activities of the older worker. For example, the authors write that it appears that a great many of the elderly men in their sample who chose to work moved into the self-employed status after retirement. This phenomenon could have been easily confirmed for all men in this country, age 65 and over, using employment statistics from the Current Population Survey, published regularly by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. There are many other instances where greater attention to other research studies could have improved the book. Moreover, there is little indication that the authors are familiar with the extensive literature in the field, and it is a rare occasion when another author is noted.

An equally disturbing problem arose when the authors attempted to hypothesize at to what the results would have been to a question that they appear to have mistakenly left out of their survey, by mentally extrapolating the results of a previous, but actually unrelated, question.

Because their work does not define the retirement decision within the framework of a model, the authors are not limited by the assumptions of any model. Thus, many of the aspects of the retirement decision have not been addressed by more scholarly analysts. As a result, the readers benefit from a discussion of the social as well as the economic importance of employment among the elderly. Retirement alternatives that are addressed include flexible schedules for the elderly, advancement, retraining, and job reassignment.

Aside from some repetition, the work is clearly written and provides the reader with a great deal of knowledge concerning retirement behavior, its analysis, policy implications, and areas of future policy concerns.
COPYRIGHT 1985 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1985 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Wright, Audrey J.
Publication:Monthly Labor Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 1, 1985
Words:495
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