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Key Findings Details

Occupational Transitions at Older Ages: What Moves are People Making?
Amanda Sonnega, Brooke Helppie McFall and Robert J. Willis
WP 2016-352

  • This paper uses data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) to examine occupational transitions at the detailed level toward the end of working life.
  • Among workers who transition between occupations, the most common transitions are between those that are closely related. However, even within closely related occupations, there are no large pipelines between any two.
  • By age 62, 57 percent of workers are no longer in the labor force, 26 percent are still in their “career” occupation, and 17 percent have changed from their career occupation to another occupation. Beginning at age 66, however, the percentages in different occupations, which may be bridge employment or unretirement, are very similar to the percentages remaining in career occupations.
  • Occupational changes later in life tend to be accompanied by decreases in hourly earnings, suggesting that if workers are seeking flexible or part-time bridge employment, it may come at a cost.