Why Do People With More Schooling Stay in the Workforce Longer?

By Chris Adams

People in general are working longer, and people with more education and training tend to stay in the labor force longer than those with less.

Does that mean heading back to school in your 50s is a good strategy if you want to fuel a career into your 60s, 70s or beyond?

In a video with the National Press Foundation, Ariane Hegewisch (bio, Twitter) of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research covered the research on education and work longevity, income and net worth. What the institute found was that  lifetime earnings and pension and Social Security income is higher for those with more education.  In addition, because jobs held by college graduates tend to be white collar, they are less likely to involve physical labor or the need for workers to be on their feet all day long. A lifetime of 9-to-5 heavy lifting leads to earlier retirement, less earnings and lower retirement accounts.

All of this also has an impact on the persistent wage gap between men and women – a key focus of the institute’s research; right now, fulltime earnings for all women are 81 percent of fulltime earnings for all men. There are many reasons for that, including the jobs women choose, the years they spend out of the workforce for childcaring and the impact of discrimination.

The bottom line: With women earning less over a lifetime, they have fewer financial resources at retirement. And given that they tend to live longer than men, that translates into fewer resources over more years.

Is it possible this could change? The institute projects out the wage gap between men and women to the theoretical point in the future when it will vanish. Right now, based on current trends, that’s a long way off: the year 2059. But women today earn a majority of all types of college degrees – associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral – and  given different career-field choices could  ease the wage gap.

This program is funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. NPF is solely responsible for the content.

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