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Bureau of Labor Statistics > Office of Survey Methods and Research > Publications > Browse Research Papers

Are Traditional Retirements a Thing of the Past? New Evidence on Retirement Patterns and Bridge Jobs

Kevin E. Cahill, Michael D. Giandrea, and Joseph F. Quinn

Abstract

This paper investigates whether permanent, one-time retirements are coming to an end just as the trend towards earlier and earlier retirements did nearly 20 years ago. We explore how common bridge jobs are among today's retirees, and how uncommon traditional retirements have become. Methods: Using data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), we explore the work histories and retirement patterns of a cohort of retirees aged 51 to 61 in 1992 over a ten-year time period in both a cross-sectional and longitudinal context. Bridge job determinants are examined using bivariate comparisons and a multinomial logistic regression model of the bridge job decision. Results: We find that one-half to two-thirds of the HRS respondents with full-time career jobs take on bridge jobs before exiting the labor force completely. We also find that bridge job behavior is most common among younger respondents, respondents without defined-benefit pension plans, and respondents at the lower- and upper-end of the wage distribution. Implications: The evidence suggests that changes in the retirement income landscape since the 1980s appear to be taking root. Going forward, traditional retirements will be the exception rather than the rule.