Links Between Early Retirement and Mortality




In this paper I use the 1973 cross-sectional Current Population Survey (CPS) matched to longitudinal Social Security administrative data (through 1998) to examine the relationship between retirement age and mortality for men who have lived to at least age 65 by year 1997 or earlier.1 Logistic regression results indicate that controlling for current age, year of birth, education, marital status in 1973, and race, men who retire early die sooner than men who retire at age 65 or older. A positive correlation between age of retirement and life expectancy may suggest that retirement age is correlated with health in the 1973 CPS; however, the 1973 CPS data do not provide the ability to test that hypothesis directly.

Regression results also indicate that the composition of the early retirement variable matters. I represent early retirees by four dummy variables representing age of entitlement to Social Security benefits—exactly age 62 to less than 62 years and 3 months (referred to as exactly age 62 in this paper), age 62 and 3 months to 62 and 11 months, age 63, and age 64. The reference variable is men taking benefits at age 65 or older. I find that men taking benefits at exactly age 62 have higher mortality risk than men taking benefits in any of the other four age groups. I also find that men taking benefits at age 62 and 3 months to 62 and 11 months, age 63, and age 64 have higher mortality risk than men taking benefits at age 65 or older. Estimates of mortality risk for “early” retirees are lowered when higher-risk age 62 retirees are combined with age 63 and age 64 retirees and when age 62 retirees are compared with a reference variable of age 63 and older retirees. Econometric models may benefit by classifying early retirees by single year of retirement age—or at least separating age 62 retirees from age 63 and age 64 retirees and age 63 and age 64 retirees from age 65 and older retirees—if single-year breakdowns are not possible.

The differential mortality literature clearly indicates that mortality risk is higher for low-educated males relative to high-educated males. If low-educated males tend to retire early in relatively greater numbers than high-educated males, higher mortality risk for such individuals due to low educational attainment would be added to the higher mortality risk I find for early retirees relative to that for normal retirees. Descriptive statistics for the 1973 CPS show that a greater proportion of age 65 retirees are college educated than age 62 retirees. In addition, a greater proportion of age 64 retirees are college educated than age 62 retirees, and a lesser proportion of age 64 retirees are college educated than age 65 or older retirees. Age 63 retirees are only slightly more educated than age 62 retirees.

Despite a trend toward early retirement over the birth cohorts in the 1973 CPS, I do not find a change in retirement age differentials over time. However, I do find a change in mortality risk by education over time. Such a change may result from the changing proportion of individuals in each education category over time, a trend toward increasing mortality differentials by socioeconomic status, or a combination of the two.

This paper does not directly explore why a positive correlation between retirement age and survival probability exists. One possibility is that men who retire early are relatively less healthy than men who retire later and that these poorer health characteristics lead to earlier deaths. One can interpret this hypothesis with a “quasidisability” explanation and a benefit optimization explanation. Links between these interpretations and my analysis of the 1973 CPS are fairly speculative because I do not have the appropriate variables needed to test these interpretations.

A quasi-disability explanation, following Kingson (1982), Packard (1985), and Leonesio, Vaughan, and Wixon (2000), could be that a subgroup of workers who choose to take retired-worker benefits at age 62 is significantly less healthy than other workers but unable to qualify for disabled-worker benefits. An econometric model with a mix of both these borderline individuals and healthy individuals retiring at age 62 and with almost no borderline individuals retiring at age 65 could lead to a positive correlation between retirement and mortality, even if a greater percentage of individuals who retire at age 62 are healthy than unhealthy. Evidence for this hypothesis can be inferred from the finding that retiring at exactly age 62 increases the odds of dying in a unit age interval by 12 percent relative to men retiring at 62 and 3 months to 62 and 11 months for men in the 1973 CPS. In addition, retiring exactly at age 62 increases the odds of dying by 23 percent relative to men retiring at age 63 and by 24 percent relative to men retiring at age 64. A group with relatively severe health problems waiting for their 62nd birthday to take benefits could create this result.

An explanation based on benefit optimization follows Hurd and McGarry’s research (1995, 1997) in which they find that individuals’ subjective survival probabilities roughly predict actual survival. If men in the 1973 CPS choose age of benefit receipt based on expectations of their own life expectancy, then perhaps a positive correlation between age of retirement and life expectancy implies that their expectations are correct on average. If actuarial reductions for retirement before the normal retirement age are linked to average life expectancy and an individual’s life expectancy is below average, it may be rational for that individual to retire before the normal retirement age. Evidence for this hypothesis can be inferred from the fact that men retiring at age 62 and 3 months to age 62 and 11 months, age 63, and age 64 all experience greater mortality risk than men retiring at age 65 or older. If only men with severe health problems who are unable to qualify for disability benefits are driving the results, we probably would not expect to see this result. We might expect most of these individuals to retire at the earliest opportunity (exactly age 62).2

Author(s): Hilary Waldron

Publication Date: August 2001

Publication Site: Social Security Office of Policy, ORES Working Paper No 93

Why Not Push Back Retirement?



Before she exited the Republican primary race, Nikki Haley advocated gradually increasing the retirement age to match the growth in life expectancy. Her political rivals swiftly criticized her proposal, but it enjoys widespread support among those looking to rein in soaring entitlement costs. A new book by economist Teresa Ghilarducci, Work, Retire, Repeat, offers reasons to seek an alternative path to reform.

Pay-as-you-go retirement systems such as Social Security or Medicare use taxes on current workers to pay benefits to retirees. Even if individuals on average fully pay for what they later get, such an arrangement will not be sustainable if declining birth rates and rising life expectancy reduce the ratio of workers to retirees. In 1960, there were five workers for each retiree. By 2000, the ratio had fallen to three-to-one. By 2040, there will be only two workers for each retiree. Raising the retirement age would both reduce the cost of benefits and increase payroll tax revenues to pay for them.

But Ghilarducci’s book argues against pushing back retirement. She suggests that, whereas policymaking elites view retirement as boring, low-paid workers typically can’t wait for relief from “heavy lifting, crushing work schedules, arbitrary changes in work duties, and the fear of being laid off.”

Ghilarducci acknowledges that employment can be a valuable source of meaning, personal identity, achievement, social interaction, and structure in people’s lives. But she disputes the claim that the correlation of retirement with declining mental health proves that it is bad for people.


By allowing younger workers to opt for a lower payroll tax rate for the remainder of their careers, in return for a uniform safety-net benefit when they reach retirement, Social Security could be made more effective at preventing poverty while also being less of a burden on the young. Such a benefit structure would likely also motivate higher-earning workers to retire later than the poor—the arrangement for which Ghilarducci provides her strongest arguments.

Author(s): Chris Pope

Publication Date: 14 Mar 2020

Publication Site: City Journal

Harvard Probe Finds Honesty Researcher Engaged in Scientific Misconduct



Harvard University probe into prominent researcher Francesca Gino found that her work contained manipulated data and recommended that she be fired, according to a voluminous court filing that offers a rare behind-the-scenes look at research misconduct investigations.

It is a key document at the center of a continuing legal fight involving Gino, a behavioral scientist who in August sued the university and a trio of data bloggers for $25 million.

The case has captivated researchers and the public alike as Gino, known for her research into the reasons people lie and cheat, has defended herself against allegations that her work contains falsified data. 

The investigative report had remained secret until this week, when the judge in the case granted Harvard’s request to file the document, with some personal details redacted, as an exhibit. 


An initial inquiry conducted by two HBS faculty included an examination of the data sets from Gino’s computers and records, and her written responses to the allegations. The faculty members concluded that a full investigation was warranted, and Datar agreed.

In the course of the full investigation, the two faculty who ran the initial inquiry plus a third HBS faculty member interviewed Gino and witnesses who worked with her or co-wrote the papers. They gathered documents including data files, correspondence and various drafts of the submitted manuscripts. And they commissioned an outside firm to conduct a forensic analysis of the data files.

The committee concluded that in the various studies, Gino edited observations in ways that made the results fit hypotheses. 

When asked by the committee about work culture at the lab, several witnesses said they didn’t feel pressured to obtain results. “I never had any indication that she was pressuring people to get results. And she never pressured me to get results,” one witness said. 

Author(s): Nidhi Subbaraman

Publication Date: 14 March 2024

Publication Site: WSJ

Supercentenarian and remarkable age records exhibit patterns indicative of clerical errors and pension fraud





The observation of individuals attaining remarkable ages, and their concentration into geographic sub-regions or ‘blue zones’, has generated considerable scientific interest. Proposed drivers of remarkable longevity include high vegetable intake, strong social connections, and genetic markers. Here, we reveal new predictors of remarkable longevity and ‘supercentenarian’ status. In the United States, supercentenarian status is predicted by the absence of vital registration. The state-specific introduction of birth certificates is associated with a 69-82% fall in the number of supercentenarian records. In Italy, England, and France, which have more uniform vital registration, remarkable longevity is instead predicted by poverty, low per capita incomes, shorter life expectancy, higher crime rates, worse health, higher deprivation, fewer 90+ year olds, and residence in remote, overseas, and colonial territories. In England and France, higher old-age poverty rates alone predict more than half of the regional variation in attaining a remarkable age. Only 18% of ‘exhaustively’ validated supercentenarians have a birth certificate, falling to zero percent in the USA, and supercentenarian birthdates are concentrated on days divisible by five: a pattern indicative of widespread fraud and error. Finally, the designated ‘blue zones’ of Sardinia, Okinawa, and Ikaria corresponded to regions with low incomes, low literacy, high crime rate and short life expectancy relative to their national average. As such, relative poverty and short lifespan constitute unexpected predictors of centenarian and supercentenarian status and support a primary role of fraud and error in generating remarkable human age records.

Author(s): Saul Justin Newman

Publication Date: 14 Mar 2024

Publication Site: bioRXiV

#20: Many great things you missed this year




You can see that, in childhood, in the US, the most common causes of death are ‘external causes’. This is a broad category that includes accidents, falls, violence, and overdoses, and is shown in red. But there’s also a notable contribution from birth disorders (in muted green), childhood cancers (in blue), and respiratory diseases (in cyan).

The share of deaths in childhood from cancers stood out to me. We’ve seen lots of progress against many childhood cancers over the last 50 years — notably in treating leukemia, brain cancers, kidney cancers, lymphomas, and retinoblastoma — but this is a reminder that there’s still further to go.

From adolescence until middle-age, ‘external causes’ are now the overwhelming cause of death. Around 80% of deaths at the age of 20 in the US are due to external causes. These result from causes such as accidents, violence, and overdoses.

At older ages, diseases rise in importance. Causes of death also become more varied, although cardiovascular diseases and cancers are the most common.

You might also be wondering about the brown category at the bottom, called ‘special ICD codes’. That’s a placeholder category in the system for deaths caused by new diseases — predominantly Covid-19, since the data spans 2018 to 2021.3


Publication Date: 16 Mar 2022

Publication Site: Scientific Discovery on substack