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Research: More Older Women Staying in U.S. Workforce

Researchers are finding that more older adults in the United States are choosing to work. This decision—whether due to the need for more economic security or a desire to remain active and engaged—showcases a major demographic shift since 1987. 

A 2023 Pew Research Center study found that 19% of Americans between the ages of 65 and older were employed in 2023. This percentage marks nearly a 50% increase in the number of older adults who were working 35 years ago. Women make up 46% of the current older (65 years and older) workforce, as compared to 40% in 1987.

The study’s authors used the terms younger workers and older workers to define age groups. We want to share both sets of data because I Start Wondering’s readership includes women in both of these groups, which are:

  • Younger workers are between the ages of 25 to 64.

  • Older workers/adults are ages 65 and older.

Older adults accounted for 7% of all wages and salaries paid by U.S. employers in 2023, which is triple the percentage from 1987. The average worker in this age group earned $22 per hour in 2022, as compared to $13 in 1987. Furthermore, the wage gap between older workers and their younger counterparts has narrowed significantly because younger workers’ earnings haven’t grown as much as those of older workers.

Additionally, older workers are more than twice as likely to be self-employed (23% of older workers vs. 10% of younger workers).

The study’s other findings include:

  • 62% of older workers work full time, as compared to 47% in 1987.

  • Women comprise 47% of employed younger adults, as compared to 44% in 1987 and 33% in 1964.

  • 44% of older workers have a bachelor’s degree or more education, which is on par with younger workers. Additionally, 42% of older women have a four-year college degree, which is a comparable percentage to older men.

  • Among workers between the ages of 25-64, 49% of women have four-year college degrees, as compared to 41% of men.

  • 36% of older workers have the opportunity to participate in an employer- or union-sponsored retirement plan.


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