“Later Retirement, Inequality in Old Age, and the Growing Gap in Longevity between Rich and Poor” new research by the Brookings Economic Studies program shows inequality is rising among America’s seniors. Key findings in the research include:

  • Americans are working longer – Labor for participation rates have been falling slowly for decades. After the early 1990s, however, the pattern reversed for workers over age 60. For older men, the labor force participation rate increased by nearly one-third from 26 percent in 1995 to 35 percent today. Rates for older women have also increased, from 15 percent in 1995 to 25 percent in 2014.
  • Americans who earn lower wages retire earlier than those earning high wages – Fifty-six percent of men and women in the bottom third of the mid-career income distribution—and with a full-retirement age of 66—begin claiming Social Security at or before age 62. Only 13.8 percent delay claiming a pension until they’re 66 years old.
  • Evidence of growing gaps in life expectancy – A growing number of studies suggest recent gains in life expectancy have been greater at the top of the income and education distributions than at the bottom.  The researchers find, for example, that the average life expectancy of man born in 1920 in the top 10 percent of the mid-career income distribution is 79.3 years. The same man in the bottom 10 percent of the distribution has an average life expectancy 5 years lower.