Self-Employment in Later Life: Implications for Financial, Physical, and Mental Well-Being

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by Cal J. Halvorsen, The Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis

Self-employment is a major form of work among older adults, with more than one in five working Americans aged 65 and older in this type of work. While research has shown that longer working lives, in general, may lead to positive financial, physical, and mental health outcomes, studies that examine the longitudinal relationships between self-employment and these outcomes are limited. Using mixed-effects longitudinal modeling, this study will analyze data from five biennial waves of the Health and Retirement Study, a nationally-representative panel study of Americans aged 50 and older. This dissertation aims to assess the characteristics of self-employed older adults, in comparison to wage-and-salary workers; as well as to compare self-employed and wage-and-salary workers in later life on a set of financial well-being and personal health outcomes. This study will employ inverse probability of treatment weighting (IPTW, sometimes referred to as propensity score weighting) to control for selection into the “treatment” of concern, self-employment. This dissertation will build upon previous work while contributing to discussions about the causal effects of later-life self-employment as well as program and policy developments to support longer working lives.

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