The topic of population aging and its effect on the U.S. workforce is an issue of mounting significance, particularly as the baby boomer generation reaches traditional retirement ages. Nicole Maestas provides needed clarity on this topic by drawing from her recent research on the economic effects of population aging and her ongoing survey of working conditions in the U.S.
In recent articles in Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal, Maestas and colleagues at RAND explained how their new research shows that the retirement of baby boomers between 2010 and 2020 will result in slower growth of the U.S. economy. Some of this reduction in growth is due to a widely expected slowdown in the rate of labor force growth, but the rest is driven by an unanticipated decline in productivity growth. Perhaps, most interestingly, the slowdown in productivity gains arises not only for older workers, but for younger workers as well.
Maestas said, “The real challenge next is to take a closer look at productivity and whether there are ways to redesign the way we work, and take a look at policies that can inadvertently encourage retirement by productive workers.”
In a Fortune article, Maestas spoke about flexibility in the workforce: options like teleworking may work for some older employees, but may not be a good fit for everyone. “It’s not clear that everyone wants to be working alone at home. These pathways aren’t so linear.”
At Forbes via Next Avenue, Maestas indicated that working longer could provide increased Social Security benefits, particularly for women. “The gain in years worked at older ages would be sufficient to offset early gaps in the earnings record, and would place women on par with men in terms of lifetime resources available to them in the latter part of life,” she said.
“This is because the additional years of earnings at these ages replace earlier years of low or zero earnings in the retirement benefit computation formula.”
And in another Forbes piece, Maestas spoke to the issue of employers dealing with the pressures of decreases in qualified labor, which could present opportunities for older workers. “Ten years from now, the presence of demographic pressures associated with aging will be even more significant. Many more firms will be struggling to retain workers,” she said.
Maestas has also taken her insight to the field, where she has lectured to academics, students, and journalists about the complex issues around the aging population. She spoke at Age Boom Academy at Columbia, a forum designed to educate journalists about these issues. In Santa Monica, she spoke about aging and work at the NIH/NIA-sponsored RAND Summer Institute to junior social scientists in the field. She also spoke at the NBER Summer Institute about the ongoing research she is conducting with her soon-to-be-released survey of American working conditions.