Percent of Older Population in the Labor Force by
Age and Sex: 1950 and 1993
(Civilian noninstitutional population)
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1950 from 1950 Current Population Survey, unpub-
lished tabulations; 1993 from Reprint of 1993, Annual Average Tables from the January 1994
Issue of Employment and Earnings, table 3.
Work and Retirement
Older persons are a growing propor-
tion of the population of the United
States, and more people live longer,
but older workers have declined as a
share of the nation’s work force. In
1970, persons 55 and over repre-
sented 19 percent of all adult workers;
in 1993, they represented 13 percent.
Few elderly are in the labor force.
Only 16 percent of elderly men and 8
percent of elderly women were labor
force participants in 1993. A small
proportion of the elderly also are ex-
pected to be labor force participants in
the near future. The Bureau of Labor
Statistics (BLS) projects that only
15 percent of men and 9 percent of
women 65 years and older will be in
the labor force in the year 2005.
Among those aged 55 to 64 years,
BLS projects that 70 percent of men
and 52 percent of women will be in
the labor force.1
There has been a long-term trend
among men in their mid-50’s and ear-
ly 60’s to retire early, that is, before
the age when they can receive full re-
tirement benefits. While the declining
trend in labor force participation rates
for men aged 50 and over leveled off
in the mid-1980’s, early pensioners
increasingly returned to work, espe-
cially part time, between 1984 and
1993.2 For older women, their labor
force participation pattern over the
past few decades has differed from
that of older men. Women in their
1 Howard N. Fullerton, “Another Look at
the Labor Force,” Monthly Labor Review, Vol.
116, No. 11, 1993, p. 24, table 4.
2 Diane E. Herz, “Work After Early Re-
tirement: An Increasing Trend Among Men,”