Women and the Workplace
The story in this week's chart seems simple: there has been a dramatic rise in the number of women working up to the "traditional" retirement age of 65, nearly reaching parity with men by 2010. However, the story is more complicated than that.
First, there is a clear upward trend to working longer (and working past 65) for both men and women over the past few decades. The same factors appear to affect both men and women: Social Security incentives for retiring later, longer lives, less physically demanding work due to the shift from manufacturing, and declining retiree health insurance benefits.
Second, the dramatic rise of women working later since 1950 is a bigger societal story: the role of women has changed dramatically in the last 60 years. More women joined and stayed in the work force. But because this group tended to join the work force later, it faces a unique challenge: fewer women are covered by traditional defined benefit pensions. They will be more dependent on Social Security, individual savings, and defined contribution plans such as 401(k)s.
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