Are Older Men Healthy Enough to Work?

Alex Golub-SassAlicia H. Munnell Mauricio Soto

IB#8-17

Introduction

Since the mid-1960s, the median retirement age for men has declined from 66 to 63. If Americans continue to retire at age 63, a great many will risk income shortfalls, especially at older ages. This risk is even greater for those currently nearing retirement who have recently seen a large portion of their nest eggs evaporate.

Work directly increases current income, Social Security benefits, and retirement saving, and decreases the length of retirement. But are Americans healthy enough to work longer? Life expectancy has been steadily increasing, but disparities in health and mortality outcomes have widened and the improvement in health outcomes for the population in general may have slowed or even reversed.

In determining whether people will be able to work longer, it is not simply measuring how long they will live, but rather how much longer they will be capable of working. Life expectancy may be increasing, but can the same be said for healthy, disability-free life expectancy?

This brief uses the National Health Interview Survey to estimate trends in disability-free life expectancy for men at age 50…