The Impact of Work and Family Life Histories on Economic Well-Being at Older Ages

Halpern-Manners, Andrew, John Robert Warren, James Raymo, and D. Adam Nicholson
Working paper no. 2010-13


Motivated by theoretical and empirical research in life course sociology, we examine relationships between trajectories of work and family roles across the life course and five measures of economic well-being in later adulthood. Using data from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study (WLS), we first identify latent trajectories of work and family roles between late adolescence and age 65. We then model economic well-being (at age 65) as a function of these trajectories and contemporaneously measured indicators of older adults’ work, family, and health statuses. Our central finding is that trajectories of work and family experiences across the life course have direct effects on later-life economic well-being, as well as indirect effects that operate through more proximate measures of work, family, and other characteristics. We argue that these findings have important implications for how social scientists conceptualize and model the relationship between later-life economic outcomes and people’s work and family experiences.