Work at age 62: expectations and realisations among recent cohorts of Americans

Leah R. Abrams, Philippa J. Clarke, Neil K. Mehta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Much remains unknown about how the 2008 Great Recession, coupled with the ageing baby-boomer cohort, have shaped retirement expectations and realised retirement timing across diverse groups of older Americans. Using the Health and Retirement Study (1992-2016), we compared expectations about full-time work at age 62 (reported at ages 51-61) with realised labour force status at age 62. Of the 12,049 respondents, 34 per cent reported no chance of working full time at 62 (zero probability) and 21 per cent reported it was very likely (90-100 probability). Among those reporting no chance of working, there was a 0.111 probability of unmet expectations; among those with high expectations of working, there was a 0.430 probability of unmet expectations. Black and Hispanic Americans were more likely than white Americans to have unmet expectations of both types. Educational attainment was associated with higher probability of unexpectedly working and lower probability of unexpectedly not working. Baby-boomers experienced fewer unmet expectations than prior cohorts but more uncertainty about work status at 62. Our findings highlight the unpredictability of retirement timing for significant segments of the US population and the role of the Great Recession in contributing to uncertainty. Given the individual and societal benefits of long work lives, special attention should be paid to the high rates of unexpectedly not working at age 62.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1213-1233
Number of pages21
JournalAgeing and Society
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 6 2022


  • Birth cohorts
  • Education
  • Race
  • Retirement timing
  • Unmet expectations
  • Work

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Social Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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