By the time young US baby boomers reached age 45, their earnings stopped growing — and even declined for some in the years that followed, according to new government data.
(Bloomberg) — By the time young US baby boomers reached age 45, their earnings stopped growing — and even declined for some in the years that followed, according to new government data.
Those born from 1957 to 1964 — the youngest contingent of baby boomers — saw hourly earnings surge until age 24 and slow through age 44 before flatlining after that. For people without a college degree, earnings even fell in later years, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report published Tuesday.
Overall, baby boomers are generally defined as those born from 1946 to 1964, and make up the second-largest share of the population after millennials. This study focused on the youngest cohort of baby boomers.
The study is the most extensive of its kind, with researchers following nearly 10,000 Americans for the majority of their lives across four decades to track their labor market experience. The participants were as young as 14 when first interviewed in 1979, and from 55 to 64 when last interviewed a few years ago.
The data illuminates a generation of workers who experienced solid gains in their early years of work, but who face significant challenges later in life.
Here are some more findings from the report:
Young baby boomers held an average of 12.7 jobs from ages 18 to 56, with the majority of job switching concentrated in their younger years. They held an average of about 6 jobs from age 18 to 24, which subsided to 2.3 jobs from age 45 to 56. Men held slightly more positions than women over the period.
Health issues are holding back many baby boomers. The share of people surveyed saying that their health limits the kind of work they can do or the time they can spend doing it surged to about 21% for those age 56. The figure was about 1 in 10 people at age 44.
It was a bigger obstacle for high school dropouts: At age 56, close to half of that group reported health limiting their work compared to about 1 in 10 for those with at least a bachelor’s degree.
On average, young baby boomers were employed for 78% of all their weeks from ages 18 to 56. They were unemployed — that is, without jobs but seeking work — only 4.4% of the time. And they weren’t in the labor force — not working and not seeking work— almost 18% of the time.
This shifts by gender and education level. Men with a bachelor’s degree and higher were employed 89% of their time. Meanwhile, among women without a high school diploma, almost half of all weeks between 1978 and 2020 were spent not in the labor force, likely in part due to child-bearing and other caregiving needs.
At 24 years of age, half of the surveyed women were married and that jumped to 69% by 34. It was a similar picture for men, except a smaller share of them were married at a young age — only about 37%. By age 56, about two-thirds of individuals were married.
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