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The Gerontologist 46:514-523 (2006)
© 2006 The Gerontological Society of America

Retirement Patterns From Career Employment

Kevin E. Cahill, PhD1, Michael D. Giandrea, PhD2 and Joseph F. Quinn, PhD3

Correspondence: Address correspondence to Kevin E. Cahill, PhD, Analysis Group, Inc., 111 Huntington Avenue, 10th Floor, Boston, MA 02199. E-mail: kcahill{at}

Purpose: This article investigates how older Americans leave their career jobs and estimates the extent of intermediate labor force activity (bridge jobs) between full-time work on a career job and complete labor-force withdrawal. Design and Methods: Using data from the Health and Retirement Study, we explored the work histories and retirement patterns of a cohort of retirees aged 51 to 61 in 1992 during a 10-year period in both cross-sectional and longitudinal contexts. We examined determinants of retirement patterns in a multinomial logistic regression model. Results: We found that a majority of older Americans with career jobs retire gradually, in stages, rather than all at once. We also found that the utilization of bridge jobs was more common among younger respondents, respondents without defined-benefit pension plans, and respondents at both the lower and upper ends of the wage distribution. Implications: Older Americans are now working longer than pre-1980s trends would have predicted. Given concerns about the traditional sources of retirement income (Social Security, employer pensions, and prior savings), older Americans may have to rely more on earnings. This article suggests that many are already doing so by moving to bridge jobs after leaving their career employment.

Key Words: Economics of aging • Partial retirement • Gradual retirement • Older workers • Retirement income

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Copyright © 2006 by The Gerontological Society of America.