Promises and Prospects
Edited by Philip Taylor
Chapter 5: Age and Work in the United States of America
Sara Rix The traditional notion of retirement – where one stops working completely and enjoys leisure time with friends and family – is obsolete. (Reynolds et al., 2005: 1) If [baby boomers] follow in the footsteps of workers now in their early 60s, perhaps one-third of the men and nearly half of the women will be out of the labor force before their 62nd birthday. (US Congress, Congressional Budget Oﬃce, 2004b: 1) INTRODUCTION Like the rest of the industrialized world, the United States is ageing. The number of pensioners is projected to rise dramatically as the baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, begin collecting Social Security beneﬁts, which for many could occur as early as 2008. That is when the oldest boomers turn 62 and ﬁrst become eligible for Social Security retired worker beneﬁts. The ratio of workers to retirees is shrinking, a situation that has long generated concern about the ability and willingness of workers to assume a growing burden of retirement income support. Yet the demographic situation in the United States is not as dire as it is in many European countries or Japan. The fertility rate is near replacement level; immigration continues to fuel population growth; and the total population is projected to continue increasing. Helping to replenish the labour force will be the nearly 99 million ‘echo boomers’ who were born between 1976 and 2001 (Sincavage, 2004). Although Social Security’s Old-Age and Survivors Insurance programme is under strain, it is not projected to become...
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