Contract Work at Older Ages

59 Pages Posted: 6 Jan 2020

See all articles by Katharine G. Abraham

Katharine G. Abraham

University of Maryland - Joint Program in Survey Methodology and Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Brad Hershbein

W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research

Susan N. Houseman

W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research

Date Written: January 2020

Abstract

The share of workers who are self-employed rises markedly with age. Given policy concerns about inadequate retirement savings, especially among those with lower education, and the resulting interest in encouraging employment at older ages, it is important to understand the role that self-employment arrangements play in facilitating work among seniors. New data from a survey module fielded on a Gallup telephone survey distinguish independent contractor work from other self-employment and provide information on informal and online platform work. The Gallup data show that, especially after accounting for individuals who are miscoded as employees, self-employment is even more prevalent at older ages than suggested by existing data. Work as an independent contractor is the most common type of self-employment. Roughly one-quarter of independent contractors age 50 and older work for a former employer. At older ages, self-employment generally—and work as an independent contractor specifically—is more common among the highly educated, accounting for much of the difference in employment rates across education groups. We provide suggestive evidence that differences in opportunities for independent contractor work play an important role in the lower employment rates of less-educated older adults.

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Suggested Citation

Abraham, Katharine G. and Hershbein, Brad and Houseman, Susan N., Contract Work at Older Ages (January 2020). NBER Working Paper No. w26612. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3514350

Katharine G. Abraham (Contact Author)

University of Maryland - Joint Program in Survey Methodology and Department of Economics ( email )

College Park, MD 20742
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Brad Hershbein

W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research ( email )

Susan N. Houseman

W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research ( email )

300 South Westnedge Avenue
Kalamazoo, MI 49007-4686
United States

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