Contract Work and Labor Force Participation at Older Ages

Project Dates

09/30/2018 -


Ensuring the adequacy of older Americans' incomes is among the most salient policy challenges currently facing the United States. Although older workers face significant barriers to employment, labor force participation has been rising among those age 55 and over, reflecting, in part, the need to work later in life to make ends meet. Available evidence suggests that independent contractor arrangements, including "gig" work, have grown in recent years, a trend that may have facilitated workforce attachment among older Americans. To help fill the gap in what is known about this phenomenon, we will analyze new data on contract work collected in a module we designed for the Gallup Strada Education Pulse Survey. These data will measure the prevalence of various contract arrangements among older workers and provide new information on the reasons they take this work. Complementing the analysis of these data, we will analyze longitudinal data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) to provide insights into changes in the prevalence of various work arrangements among older workers over time and the role they have played in increasing workforce attachment. We aim to address the following questions: 1) To what degree are older workers involved in contract, gig or other informal non-employee work arrangements and why are they working in these arrangements? 2)How often do they work under these arrangements with former employers? 3) To what extent are they using mobile apps or on-line platforms to secure their work? 4) How does the incidence of their use of independent contractor arrangements/on-demand platforms compare with use by younger workers?


NBER (pass through agent for SSA)

Subject Area

LABOR MARKET ISSUES; Employment relationships