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Health and Labor Force Participation of Older Men, 1900–1991

Dora Costa

The Journal of Economic History, 1996, vol. 56, issue 1, 62-89

Abstract: I use Body Mass Index (BMI) to investigate how the ralationship between health status and retirement among older men has changed since 1900. Although BMIs for the elderly were much less healthy in 1900 than today, the BMI level that maximizes labor force participation rates has not changed. However, in 1900 the elasticity of nonparticipation with respect to BMI was greater than it is today, suggesting that health is now less important to the retirement decision than in the past. Other factors (especially rising income) are more important than health in explaining the historical changes in retirement rates.

Date: 1996
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