The role of life histories in retirement processes

M. Damman

Research output: Working paper/discussion paperWorking paper/Discussion paperScientific

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Abstract

In most developed countries, populations are aging rapidly due
to the long-term decline of fertility and increasing longevity.
Extending the working lives of older individuals is often perceived
as a key policy response to population aging, putting the issue
of retirement high on the policy as well as the scientific agenda.
At the same time, the life course of individual persons has
undergone major changes during the last several decades. The
‘standard life course’ – where paid work was central in the lives
of male adults, housework and care tasks central in the lives of
female adults, and couples stayed together until death – has
become less self-evident, with the same applying to lifetime
employment at a single employer. What consequences do these
earlier life experiences in the work and family spheres have for the
retirement-related decisions and experiences of older persons?
To study this question, this survey paper reviews the scientific
literature on the relationship between earlier life experiences
and retirement of older adults. Subjects addressed include (a)
important changes in the lives of individuals in the Netherlands
and other countries during the last several decades, (b) theoretical
starting points in the research on life histories and retirement,
and (c) empirical findings in the international retirement
literature. In general, the review of the literature suggests that life
histories are important for an understanding of retirement-related
decisions and experiences. Various earlier life events in both the
work and family life spheres – such as career mobility and the
experience of a divorce – have been shown to “set the stage” for
the way older persons approach their later years. However, the
empirical research on life histories and retirement is still rather
fragmented. This paper presents various suggestions for future
research to further improve our insights regarding the embedment
of retirement in the life course of individual persons.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationTilburg
PublisherNetwork for Studies on Pensions, Aging and Retirement (NETSPAR)
Pages1-55
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Publication series

NameNetspar Industry Paper Series
No.Survey Paper 45

Keywords

  • retirement processes
  • life course perspective
  • life histories
  • older workers

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