A Study of Trajectories of Work Ability, Health, and Disability on Retirement Claiming Behavior

by Amal Harrati and David Rehkopf, Stanford University School of Medicine

How are retirement decisions affected by patterns of employment, disability, and health across a working life? How much does this have to do with the characteristics of workers and of the jobs in which they are employed? Which sorts of workers or jobs are prone to greater likelihood of early retirement as a function of relatively more or less frequent periods of disability and leave? These are important questions that have largely gone unanswered because opportunities to track individuals through long periods of their working life are rare.

Using a unique database of over 40,000 employees at a large manufacturing firm with a diversity of jobs and geographic locations, we aim to do two things. First, we will examine the association of trajectories of work ability and disability during years of employment with patterns of retirement claiming age and income. We will also consider program interactions between Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Social Security retirement by tracking workers whose employee-sponsored disability claims are followed with application to and/or receipt of SSDI benefits and evaluating their subsequent retirement claiming age and income. Then, we will investigate the role of health in the relationship between working trajectories and retirement claiming age. We will construct detailed health trajectories of these workers to assess the extent to which health conditions and patterns of health contribute to differential patterns in both SSDI claiming and age at claiming retirement benefits from SSA.

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