The Relationship Between Adverse Experiences Over the Life Course and Early Retirement Due to Disability

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Abstract

A growing body of research implicates life span adversity in later-life outcomes. We use data from the Life History Mail Survey (LHMS) with data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) core surveys to examine the relationship between adverse experiences over the life course and retirement due to disability. We employ 31 measures of childhood and adulthood adversities in both the financial and social domains. We create three measures of retirement due to disability based on survey responses to questions about health as a reason for retiring and the extent to which health limits work ability. For each measure of early retirement due to disability, we perform competing risk survival analysis modeling these outcomes relative to continued work or retirement for any other reason. We conduct these analyses in four samples depending on the component of the survey the data from which the data derived, with the sample including LHMS information being the most restricted but including the greatest number of adversities. Cumulative life adversity was associated with all outcomes examined, including the most conservative specification of disability retirement (i.e., retirement in the context of a health problem that completely limits work) and across all samples. We also found that childhood financial adversity and adult social adversity were most consistently associated with an increased hazard of retirement due to disability in our analysis, which balances the greatest number of adversities with a reasonably large sample (Sample 3).

Key Findings

  • This study examines the relationship between adverse experiences over the life course and retirement due to disability.
  • The number of cumulative lifetime adversities was associated with retirement due to disability, that is, retirement in the context of a health problem that completely limits work.
  • The domains of childhood financial adversity and adult social adversity were most consistently associated with an increased hazard of retirement due to disability.

Citation

Sonnega, Amanda, and Brooke Helppie-McFall. 2021. “The Relationship Between Adverse Experiences Over the Life Course and Early Retirement Due to Disability.” Ann Arbor, MI. University of Michigan Retirement and Disability Research Center (MRDRC) Working Paper; MRDRC WP 2021-435. https://mrdrc.isr.umich.edu/publications/papers/pdf/wp435.pdf

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Project

Paper ID

WP 2021-435

Publication Type

Working Paper

Publication Year

2019