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Abstract

Declining Wealth and Work among Male Veterans in the Health and Retirement Study
Alan L. Gustman, Thomas L. Steinmeier and Nahid Tabatabai
WP 2015-323

The composition, wealth, and employment of male veterans and nonveterans are analyzed for four cohorts from the Health and Retirement Study, ages 51 to 56 in 1992, 1998, 2004, and 2010. Half of the two oldest cohorts served in the military. Only 16 percent of the youngest cohort, the only cohort subject to the all-volunteer military, served. One-fifth to one-third of the members of each cohort who served saw combat, mainly in Vietnam and in the Gulf War. Among those 51 to 56 in 1992, veterans were better educated, healthier, wealthier, and more likely to be working than nonveterans. By 2010, 51- to 56-year-old veterans had lost their educational advantage, were less healthy, less wealthy, and less likely to be working than nonveterans. After standardizing in multiple regressions for the influence of major observable characteristics, for the original 1992 HRS cohort, the wealth of veterans is no longer higher than the wealth of nonveterans. In contrast, the wealth of veterans from the youngest cohort, those 51 to 56 in 2010, remains about 10 to 13 percent below the wealth of nonveterans from that cohort. There also is a decline from older to younger cohorts of veterans compared to nonveterans in the probability of being not retired, of working more than 35 hours per week, and in the likelihood of holding a job for more than 10 years. Comparisons are made within the group of veterans by years of service, officer rank and other covariates.

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