Labor Market Problems and Employment Policies Affecting Older Americans
STEVEN H. SANDELL
Older workers on average have higher earnings and are less likely to be unemployed than younger workers. However, many older persons do experience labor market problems. These can be reduced by enlightened employment policies in the public and private sectors. After documenting the extent of the problems and their causes, this book examines the effects and potential of policies.
To understand the problems of older workers and the government policies that affect them, it is useful to keep in mind some prototypical older workers. First, there are average persons, mainstream individuals whose earnings increase normally over their working years, peaking in their fifties, then leveling off toward the end of their working lives prior to an anticipated period of retirement. Second, some average persons experience an unanticipated mid-life event, such as a major health or disability problem or the loss of a long-held job that disrupts the average pattern. Third, there are disadvantaged people who have struggled all their lives. These people, with histories of intermittent employment and low earnings, often have severe labor market problems when they reach old age.
Key research and policy questions are different for each prototype. Do the average worker's earnings fail to continue rising in his or her late working years because of age discrimination in pay, or are there other important reasons? How common is it for workers to have the normal lifetime earnings pattern interrupted by an unanticipated event such as loss of a long-held job? How severe is the earning