Mid-life Work Experiences and First Retirement

Raymo, James, John R. Warren, Megan M. Sweeney, Robert M. Hauser, and JeongHwa Ho
Working paper no. 2008-14


In the rapidly changing context of retirement, it is important to reevaluate theoretical and empirical linkages between individual life histories and patterns of work in later-life. In this study, we use data from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study to examine relationships between multiple measures of mid-life work experiences and the timing and nature of first retirement. We show that employment stability, occupational mobility, self-employment, and union membership across the life course are all associated with the timing of first retirement. We also demonstrate that characteristics of mid-career employment are associated with the relative likelihood of retiring for health reasons and reemployment following retirement. Consistent with earlier research, we find that these relationships between work histories and retirement outcomes are mediated to some extent by pre-retirement differences in economic circumstances and private pension eligibility. Importantly, however, several aspects of work histories remain significantly related to retirement timing and pathways even after controlling for a wide array of established correlates.