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Older Americans Double Workforce Presence

Older Americans Double Workforce Presence, Shaping a New Era of Employment

Posted on March 12, 2024
Writer: James Miller

The labor market is witnessing a remarkable shift as the participation and influence of older Americans surge significantly.

In 2023, nearly 20% of Americans aged 65 and older hold jobs, roughly double the figure from 35 years prior. They command higher wages, too, with median hourly earnings of $22 in 2022, up from $13 in 1987.

Older workers today distinguish themselves from past generations in several notable ways: 

  • Match their younger peers in holding four-year college degrees, representing a significant leap in educational attainment.
  • Have at least a bachelor’s degree, with 44% of those 65 and older achieving this level of education — up sharply from 18% in 1987. This puts them on par with the 25-to-64-year-old age group.
  • Work full-time more often: 62% of seniors work full hours, an increase from 47% in 1987.
  • Enjoy better access to employer-provided benefits, such as pensions and health insurance, contrasting with the diminishing access among younger workers.

The composition of the workforce has evolved concerning gender and racial diversity. Women now comprise a larger share of the older workforce, increasing to 46% from 40% in 1987, reflecting broader labor force trends. Furthermore, the older workforce has grown more racially and ethnically diverse, though it remains less diverse than the younger workforce.

These shifts underscore the changing dynamics of the U.S. labor market, with older workers contributing more in terms of education, earnings, and benefits. Their contribution has grown significantly, accounting for 7% of all wages and salaries paid by U.S. employers in 2023, more than triple their share in 1987.

Workers aged 65 and older generally find more job satisfaction than younger workers, enjoying their work more and experiencing less stress. 

These job satisfaction and demographic changes illustrate an evolving labor market where older Americans play a more significant economic and social role.

Read the full story at Pew Research Center.

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