The Effect of Unplanned Changes in Marital and Disability Status: Interrupted Trajectories and Labor

John B. Williamson Tay K. McNamara

WP#2002-5

Abstract

This study explored the effect of unplanned changes in disability and marital status on labor force participation for a sample of just under six thousand men and women born between 1931 and 1941. It was based on wave 1 (1992) through wave 4 (1998) of the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) data. Binomial hierarchical linear models were used to evaluate the change in the probability of working. Unplanned changes in disability and marital status had effects on labor force participation over and above the effects of the statuses themselves. These findings highlight the need for employer and government policies that minimize the stress that exists with unplanned events. Such policies might encourage higher labor force participation among workers who experience unplanned events that prompt them to exit the labor force earlier than they otherwise would have, with potentially adverse consequences for their subsequent socioeconomic status.