Wharton Pension Research Council Working Papers

Document Type

Working Paper

Date of this Version



This paper explores the likely prevalence of hardship in old age for individuals now nearing retirement. We use two decades of longitudinal data from the Health and Retirement Study to determine what observable demographic, socioeconomic, and financial factors in late middle age predicted economic hardship in old age for the cohort that was nearing retirement age in the mid-1990s. It then uses these findings to predict economic hardship in old age for the cohort nearing retirement age in the mid-2010s. Our analysis suggests that the more recent cohort is likely to realize higher economic insecurity, particularly among men.


The published version of this working paper may be found in the 2020 publication: Remaking Retirement: Debt in an Aging Economy.


Older adults, Health and Retirement Study, demographics, economic hardship

Working Paper Number


Copyright/Permission Statement

The findings, conclusions, views, and opinions are those of the authors and do not represent the views of the Social Security Administration, Harvard University, the Department of the Treasury, or other institutions that the authors are affiliated with. All findings, interpretations, and conclusions of this paper represent the views of the authors and not those of the Wharton School or the Pension Research Council. © 2019 Pension Research Council of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. All rights reserved.


The authors wish to thank Kayla Jones for research assistance and Alicia Lloro, Olivia Mitchell, Steve Robinson, John Sabelhaus, Jason Seligman, Mark Warshawsky, Richard Zeckhauser, and seminar participants at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, the Social Security Administration, and the Wharton Pension Research Council 2019 Symposium for helpful comments.

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Economics Commons



Date Posted: 25 September 2019