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Older workers doing better than younger counterparts, study suggests

Posting in Education

Are older workers losing out in the current economy? On the contrary, a new study asserts -- workers age 60 and up are earning more than their younger counterparts, and may be more productive.

Photo credit: Joe McKendrick

Lately, there has been a lot of discussion about the plight of older workers, suggesting that they are getting the short end of today's hyper-competitive economy. For example, a recent J.P. Morgan study suggests that people in the 50s and 60s have actually been disappearing from the workforce. Anecdotal stories of age discrimination abound.

But one new study, funded by the U.S. Social Security Administration, paints a different picture. Older workers are more educated, more productive, and make more money than ever before. And with the increasing numbers of Baby Boomers hitting age-60 mark, these trends are only going to accelerate.

That's the conclusion of the new study, released through The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. The study's author, Gary Burtless, examines the productivity of workers between the ages of 64 and 74, and makes projections for the decade ahead.

In a summary note published by Brookings Institution, Burtless observes that older workers also earn premiums over younger workers, and tend to have just as high educational levels. (Until recently, older workers tended to have less educational attainment than "prime-age" workers.)

Burtless observes, for example, that 20 years ago, only 20 percent of workers who were high-school dropouts remained in the workforce past age 60, versus 60 percent of those with doctoral or professional degrees. This metric stays essentially the same for men, but has risen for women. Plus, since average educational levels are rising for older workers, greater labor participation rates are coming with it.

Burtless says income gains have been relatively impressive for older employees who stay in the workforce. Employees between the ages of 65 and 69 have had 30 percentage-point gains in income between the years 1985 and 2010. In addition, 70-to-74-year olds saw their income grow at least 28 percentage points higher since 1985.

By contrast, the incomes of workers 25-29 dropped seven points, and those in the 45-49 group dropped one point since 1985.

— By on June 11, 2013, 11:38 AM PST

Joe McKendrick

Contributing Editor

Joe McKendrick is an independent analyst who tracks the impact of information technology on management and markets. He is a co-author of the SOA Manifesto and has written for Forbes, ZDNet and Database Trends & Applications. He holds a degree from Temple University. He is based in Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure