Derailed by the COVID-19 Economy? An Intersectional and Life Course Analysis of Older Adults’ Shifting Work Attachments

Phyllis Moen, Joseph H. Pedtke, Sarah Flood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper addresses the uneven employment effects on older Americans (aged 50–75) of the COVID-19 pandemic. Drawing on monthly Current Population Survey data from January through December 2020, we take an intersectional and life course approach to study the labor market effects of COVID-19 on older Americans. First, we chart monthly labor force states throughout 2020 for older adult subgroups defined by age, gender, and race/ethnicity. We then examine transitions out of and into work from one month to the next. We find gendered age-graded declines in employment, increases in unemployment, and increases in the proportions of people in their 50s reporting they are not in the labor force for other reasons (NILF-other), most dramatically for Asian and Hispanic women. There is little change in age-graded retirement from before to during the pandemic, regardless of gender or race/ethnicity, though there are education-level effects, with those without a college degree more likely to retire in the face of COVID-19. White men with a college degree are the most apt to retain their work engagement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAmerican Behavioral Scientist
StateAccepted/In press - 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This work was supported by the Life Course Center on the Demography and Economics of Aging at the University of Minnesota (1P30AG066613), Minnesota Population Center (P2CH041023), IPUMS CPS (R01HD067258), and National Science Foundation (1850914).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 SAGE Publications.


  • COVID-19
  • disparities
  • intersectional
  • life course
  • older workers


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