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For the Oldest Workers, Education Matters

People with college and graduate degrees more likely to be working after turning 65

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The more education older adults have, the more likely they are to be working past the age of 65, even as obstacles like age discrimination continue to discourage many of them from looking for jobs, according to a new AARP report.

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According to the report by AARP’s Public Policy Institute, which analyzes data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and other federal sources, 31 percent of people who were still in the labor force past age 65 had earned a master’s degree or higher compared with just 15 percent of those who just had a high school diploma. Twenty-five percent of those in the workforce after turning 65 had a bachelor’s degree.

Research suggests that workers who have completed higher levels of education might stay in the workforce longer because their jobs tend to have better working conditions and pay more.

“As a result, many workers, especially those with lower levels of education, may leave the labor market too early to secure the levels of retirement income they will need to maintain their living standards,” the report says.

Since the 1990s, the percentage of people ages 65 and older continues to grow as a share of the workforce. According to BLS projections, by 2024 there will be 13 million Americans who are still working past the age of 65. Between 2014 and 2024, the number of workers between the ages 65 and 74 will increase by 55 percent while the entire workforce will grow by just 5 percent.

Older adults are continuing to work for several reasons including longer lifespans, the need to increase their retirement savings and the desire to continue jobs they enjoy, the AARP report notes.

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Despite their growing role in the workforce, according to the report adults over the age of 65 do continue to face challenges:

  • Twenty-four percent reported they were unemployed due to layoffs, compared to just 14 percent for workers between the ages of 25-49 and 18 percent for those ages 50-64;
  • Thirty-six percent said they were unemployed because they were re-entering the job force after time away;
  • Among discouraged workers ages 65 and older, a total of 17 percent said they had given up looking for work because employers thought they were too old.

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