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September, 1988, Vol. 111, No. 9
of older women, 1987
Since the late 1970's, the number of youths in the labor force has fallen by 2.4 million and labor force growth of women in the central age groups (25-44) has slowed considerably. Some employers have found it increasingly difficult to recruit workers and have turned to older persons (age 55 and over) to fill their hiring needs. As the "graying of America" progresses, older workers may become a greatly sought-after resource.
However, while the attractiveness of older persons as a source of labor may have increased, work force participation among those age 55 and over has, until the last few years, declined steadily. Understanding who older workers are, why they leave the labor force or continue to work, and what types of jobs they hold is critical for developing strategies aimed at increasing, or at least maintaining, their employment.1
Most past studies on older workers and retirement have largely ignored women, partly because the female share of the older paid work force has traditionally been small. In 1950, for example, only 2 of 10 workers age 55 and over were women. Since then, early retirement by men and increased labor force participation by women in their mid-fifties have expanded that proportion rapidly. As a result, it is no longer possible to ignore the labor force behavior of women age 55 and over, who now are 4 of every 10 older workers.
This article focuses on women age 55 and over who work. It first presents an overview of the group's work activity, occupational distribution, education, and earnings, and then discusses these characteristics as they vary according to marital status and race. The data for this study come primarily from the Current Population Survey (CPS).2 Although it is limited in longitudinal capability, the CPS is probably the most comprehensive source of data on employment of older women. Where possible, other sources are used to supplement CPS findings.
This excerpt is from an article published in the September 1988 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. The full text of the article is available in Adobe Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF). See How to view a PDF file for more information.
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1 Recognizing the importance of issues related to older workers, Secretary of Labor Ann McLaughlin recently convened a Task Force on Older Workers.
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Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey
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Developments in women's labor force participation.—Sept. 1997.
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