Does Household Debt Influence the Labor Supply and Benefit Claiming Decisions of Older Americans?

Barbara A. Butrica Nadia S. Karamcheva

WP#2013-22

Abstract

Americans’ indebtedness has increased dramatically since the 1980s – a trend likely to have important implications for retirement security.  This study finds that older adults with debt are 8 percentage points more likely to work and 2 percentage points less likely to receive Social Security benefits than those without debt.  Not only does the presence of debt influence older adults’ behavior, but so do the amount and type of debt – particularly outstanding mortgages. Increasingly, retirement security will depend on having enough income and assets to pay for basic living expenses and to service debt.