Report: Older Workers Are Growing in Number and Earning Higher Wages

Dec 20, 2023

A new report from Pew Research Center finds that there are more older adults in the workforce, working longer hours with higher levels of education and greater pay per hour than previous decades. The current older workforce reached 11 million, which is nearly quadrupled in size since the mid-1980s. 

The research also revealed that found that workers ages 65 and older are more satisfied with their jobs overall than younger workers. They’re also more likely to say they find their job enjoyable and fulfilling all or most of the time, and less likely to say they find it stressful.

Among the key findings are the following:

  • Older adults are working more hours, on average, than in previous decades. Today, 62% of older workers are working full time, compared with 47% in 1987.
  • Older adults are more likely to have a four-year college degree than in the past. Some 44% of older workers today have a bachelor’s degree or more education, compared with 18% in 1987. That puts them about on par with workers ages 25 to 64.
  • Older adults are more likely than in previous decades to be receiving employer-provided benefits such as pension plans and health insurance. The same does not hold true for younger workers, whose access to these employer-provided benefits has decreased in recent decades. For example, among workers ages 65 and older, 36% now have the option to participate in an employer- or union-sponsored retirement plan (either an old-style pension or a 401(k)-type plan), up from 33% in 1987. Only 41% of younger workers have access to this type of retirement plan at work, down from 55% in 1987.

The report points to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projections that show the role of older workers will continue to grow over the next decade. Adults ages 65 and older are projected to be 8.6% of the labor force
(those working and looking for work) in 2032, up from 6.6% in 2022. Older adults are projected to
account for 57% of labor force growth over this period.

Older adults are one of the few age groups that are expected to increase their labor force
participation rate over the decade. The BLS projects that 21% of older adults will be in the labor
force in 2032, up from 19% in 2022. The only other age group projected to increase its labor force
participation rate is 55- to 64-year-olds.

The full report is available here.