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

Self‐Employment Transitions among Older American Workers with Career Jobs

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

Abstract

What role does self-employment play in the retirement process? Older Americans are staying in the labor force longer than prior trends would have predicted and many change jobs later in life. These job transitions are often within the same occupation or across occupations within wage-and-salary employment. The transition can also be out of wage-and-salary work and into self employment. Indeed, national statistics show that self employment becomes more prevalent with age, partly because self employment provides older workers with opportunities not found in traditional wage-and-salary jobs, such as flexibility in hours worked and independence. This paper analyzes transitions into and out of self employment among older workers who have had career jobs. We utilize the Health and Retirement Study, a nationally-representative dataset of older Americans, to investigate the prevalence of self employment among older workers who made a job transition later in life and to explore the factors that determine the choice of wage-and-salary employment or self employment. We find that post-career transitions into and out of self employment are common and that health status, career occupation, and financial variables are important determinants of these transitions. As older Americans and the country as a whole face financial strains in retirement income in the years ahead, self employment may be a vital part of the pro-work solution.