WI23-11: The Long-run Effects of Workplace Injuries on Older Workers: Earnings, SSDI, SSI, and Early Retirement



The majority of older workers have jobs that require some physical effort, and one-quarter experience a new disability after age 55. Roughly 25 percent of these work-limiting disabilities are incurred on the job. Work-related injuries and illnesses may impact individuals differently than non-work-related impairments because of job protections and benefits in the Workers' Compensation (WC) program. However, little is known about the effects of these late-in-career workplace injuries on workers' financial wellbeing, retirement outcomes, or participation in government programs.

This study provides new evidence on the longitudinal impacts of workplace injuries and illnesses on older workers. The effects of work-related injuries are evaluated using linked Health and Retirement Study (HRS) and Social Security Administration (SSA) data on older workers’ earnings, retirement timing (i.e., age claim OASI), and program participation (i.e., WC, SSI, and DI receipt). These estimates are then compared to the impacts of work-limiting disabilities that are incurred outside of work. In addition, the research explores the extent to which harmful effects of a workplace injury are mitigated when employers offer on-the-job accommodations to injured workers, allowing them to return to work sooner and/or avoid large earnings losses.

Results aim to inform policymakers on the costs of work-related injuries and illnesses for older workers and on the interaction of public programs designed to support those with work-limiting health problems.


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