How Does Early Retirement Affect Mortality?

by Maria D. Fitzpatrick, Cornell University and Timothy J. Moore, George Washington University

The United States and most other developed countries are undergoing dramatic demographic changes that affect the viability of their old-age Social Security systems.  Identifying the effects of retirement-related policies on older workers’ health and vitality is beneficial for both improving quality of life for older Americans and for guaranteeing the solvency of social insurance programs like Social Security.  Disentangling the relationship between retirement timing and health is difficult because the two are simultaneously determined: health affects the decision to remain in the workforce and continued engagement with the workplace likely has effects on health.  Few studies have used exogenous variation in retirement timing to identify the causal effects of working longer on health; none have done so using administrative data or high-quality data on health outcomes in the United States.  We will use exogenous variation in the eligibility for Social Security at age 62 in a regression discontinuity framework to identify the reduced-form effects of early retirement eligibility on mortality.  We will combine results using administrative data on mortality from the National Center for Health Statistics with results drawn from detailed administrative data from the Social Security Administration to create a detailed picture of the effects of becoming eligible for early retirement on older American’s health than has previously been available.

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