Why the United States Science and Engineering Workforce Is Aging Rapidly

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IZA Seminar

Place: Schaumburg-Lippe-Str. 9, 53113 Bonn

Date: 03.11.2016, 12:15 - 13:30


Presentation by 

David M. Blau (Ohio State University)


The United States science and engineering workforce has aged rapidly in recent years, both in absolute terms and relative to the workforce as a whole. This is a potential concern if the large number of older scientists crowds out younger scientists, making it difficult for them to establish independent careers. In addition, scientists are believed to be most creative earlier in their careers, so the aging of the workforce may slow the pace of scientific progress. We develop and simulate a demographic model, which shows that the main cause of the rapid aging was a decline in the retirement rate of older scientists, induced by elimination of mandatory retirement in US universities in 1994. Furthermore, the age distribution of the scientific workforce is still adjusting to this policy change. Current retirement rates and other determinants of employment in science imply a steady state mean age 5.4 years higher than the 2008 level of 48.6.

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