Cognitive Ability, Personality, and Pathways to Retirement

An Exploratory Study

Published in: Work, Aging and Retirement, Volume 4, Issue 1, (January 2018), Pages 52-66. doi: 10.1093/workar/wax030

Posted on RAND.org on April 03, 2018

by Peter Hudomiet, Andrew M. Parker, Susann Rohwedder

Read More

Access further information on this document at Work

This article was published outside of RAND. The full text of the article can be found at the link above.

This article describes an exploratory study that investigates the extent to which two sets of psychological factors, fluid cognitive ability and personality traits, predict late-in-life work and retirement outcomes. Using longitudinal data from the Health and Retirement Study, we first provide a detailed characterization of within-subject work-to-retirement pathways, spanning 14 years of data for each individual, and identify the most frequent pathway classes. We found that only 37% of workers followed the "standard" pattern of retiring completely from a full-time job. We then examined how cognitive ability and personality traits predict these work-to-retirement pathways. We found that individuals with better cognitive ability work longer, both in full- and in part-time jobs, and extraversion is a strong predictor of working longer, mainly in part-time jobs. These results are robust to the inclusion of many covariates, including demographics, health, socioeconomic status, and labor market variables. Although the observed patterns match individuals' retirement expectations to some extent, there also seems to be evidence of some surprise. Practical implications and suggestions for future research are discussed.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation external publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.