Love, Toil, and Health Insurance: Why American Husbands Retire When They Do

23 Pages Posted: 8 Nov 2014

Date Written: January 2015


The provision of health insurance has previously been shown to be an important determinant of retirement timing among older Americans, but the existing literature has largely ignored some aspects of the interspousal dependence of health insurance benefits. Specifically, the literature examines only how retirement may affect the health insurance available to the potential retiree but not how it might affect a spouse's options. Using data from the Health and Retirement Study, I find that the impact a husband's retirement might have on a wife's health insurance options has a statistically significant impact on a husband's rate of retirement that is independent of considerations of his own health insurance options. In households where the wife is the only one at risk of losing affordable health insurance if the husband retires, the husband is 30% less likely to retire than if neither spouse is at risk (a 5 percentage point decrease in the retirement rate). Based on these findings, prior research is missing one avenue that changes to the Medicare eligibility age and health insurance policy changes through the Affordable Care Act might impact the labor supply of older workers.

JEL Classification: I13, J26, J32

Suggested Citation

Congdon‐Hohman, Joshua, Love, Toil, and Health Insurance: Why American Husbands Retire When They Do (January 2015). Contemporary Economic Policy, Vol. 33, Issue 1, pp. 118-140, 2015. Available at SSRN: or

Joshua Congdon‐Hohman (Contact Author)

College of the Holy Cross ( email )

1 College Street
Worcester, MA 01610-2395
United States

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