Work-Life Balance and Labor Force Attachment at Older Ages

Published: 2017


We use data from the Health and Retirement Study to examine the role of work-life balance (WLB) as a nonmonetary determinant of retirement transitions, conditional on job attributes such as hours of work, compensation and benefits. We show that low levels of WLB are significantly associated with subsequent reductions in labor supply for workers aged 51 to 79, and document heterogeneity by gender and employment status. Moreover, WLB mediates labor supply responses to spousal health shocks. Workers who report higher levels of work-to-life interference are significantly more likely to reduce their labor supply in the next two periods following a spouse’s health shock, and this effect is once more heterogeneous. The moderating effect of WLB is stronger for women than men. Among female workers, it is stronger for those employed part-time at baseline.

Key Findings

    • The authors use data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) to investigate the relationship between Work-Life Balance (WLB) and retirement transitions conditional on job attributes such as hours of work, compensation, and benefits. They examine how responses to a spouse’s health shock differ by WLB levels before the onset of the shock.
    • Results show that WLB is significantly associated with labor force transitions among older workers. On average, higher levels of perceived work-life conflict correlate to a higher likelihood that full- and part-time workers retire within two years.
    • We find that WLB moderates labor supply responses to a spouse’s health shock, especially for women. Among female workers, the probability of moving from full-time to part-time employment, and from part-time employment to retirement, after a spousal health shock increases significantly with the perceived level of work-life interference.
    • A better understanding of the effect of WLB on retirement behavior, and of the specific life circumstances during which WLB becomes valuable to employees, could help to suggest workplace arrangements to facilitate longer labor force attachment.


Angrisani, Marco, Maria Casanova, and Erik Meijer. 2017. “Work-Life Balance and Labor Force Attachment at Older Ages.” Ann Arbor MI: University of Michigan Retirement Research Center (MRRC) Working Paper, WP 2017-366.