Is Bridge Job Activity Overstated?
Kevin E. Cahill, Michael D. Giandrea, and Joseph F. Quinn
Considerable prior research has shown that most older Americans with career employment transition to bridge jobs before exiting the labor force. One criticism of this research is that bridge job activity may be overstated because the definition of a bridge job in the existing literature does not require a change in occupation. For some, the “bridge job” may just be another in a series of job changes, and not a prelude to retirement. This article investigates the extent to which bridge jobs involve a change in occupation or a switch to part-time status, both of which may signal the start of a retirement transition, as opposed to continued career employment, albeit with a different employer. We utilize the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), a nationally representative longitudinal dataset of older Americans that began in 1992. Among HRS respondents who were on a full-time career job at the time of the first interview and who changed jobs in subsequent waves, 48% of the men and 39% of the women also changed their (two-digit) occupation at the time of their first transition. Further, when hours worked is also considered, about 3 quarters of men and women experienced a change in occupation and/or a switch from full-time to part-time status. We conclude that most career workers who changed jobs later in life did in fact do so as part of a retirement transition. Ignoring these subtleties does result in an overestimate of bridge job activity, but only a modest one.
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