WI21-04: The Changing Task Content of Jobs for Older Workers



By 2026, one out of every four workers will be over the age of 55. Understanding how the requirements of jobs typically performed by older workers have changed and the impact of such changes on older workers’ labor market outcomes is important, as the largest generation in American history transitions to retirement over the next decade. Our study has two goals. First, we will document changes in mental and physical task intensity across occupations of older workers over an almost 20-year period (2003-2020). Second, we will study the relationship between changes in mental and physical task intensity on the labor market outcomes of workers in their late-30s through their late-50s.

We will carry out our study by constructing a panel of occupations from 2003-2020 using data from the Occupation Information Network (ONET). Using these data, we will create measures of mental and physical task intensity for each detailed occupation. We will then link the measures created from the ONET data to the 1979 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY79). The linked data will allow us to measure the effects of changing mental and physical work on wage rates, hours worked, unemployment, work satisfaction, and job-switching. Because NLSY79 survey respondents are not yet eligible for regular Social Security benefits, we benchmark our findings by linking data from ONET and the Occupation Requirements Survey (ORS) with the 2018 American Community Survey (ACS) to study the mental and physical tasks required in occupations employing retirement-eligible workers.


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