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The Effect of Local Labor Demand Conditions on the Labor Supply Outcomes of Older Americans

Dec 2013
Working Paper
13-014
By  Nicole Maestas, Kathleen Mullen, David Powell
A vast literature in labor economics has studied the relationship between local labor demand shifts and the outcomes of the working age population. This literature has ignored the impacts that these shocks have on older individuals, though there are reasons to believe that the effects are not uniform by age. Using data from the Census and the Health and Retirement Study, we measure the effects of local labor demand conditions on a host of outcomes for older individuals including employment, retirement, Social Security claiming, wages, and job characteristics. We find that local labor demand conditions do affect the labor and retirement behavior of the older segment of the population, including Social Security claiming decisions. We also find evidence that older individuals are especially responsive to local labor demand shifts in the service industry, which we show has observably different job characteristics that may be especially attractive to older workers. Similarly, we find evidence that labor demand shocks not only increase the wages of older workers but also make the jobs more attractive on non-pecuniary dimensions.