Sure, senior citizens are one of the only groups whose financial situation has remained relatively steady during the Second Great Depression. But that’s because many of them are being forced to have the freedom to work long into what should be their retirement.
As recently as the late 1990s, only one in five Americans in their late 60s had a job. Now, that number has jumped to almost one in three. And unlike in their parents’ generation, more women are earning paychecks than in the past, contributing to household income.
Researchers say these factors are in large part responsible for the substantial rise in median household income that seniors in their late 60s and early 70s have experienced since 1989, even as Americans in their prime working years have mostly treaded water or lost ground.
Not everyone, of course, can work later in life. Health problems and age discrimination present major hurdles. And many of those who find jobs consider them barely adequate.
Pat Cherry, 72, has been earning minimum wage at a job in the library of the city-run Waxahachie Senior Activity Center. Ms. Cherry, who is divorced, had to retire early from a bookkeeping job after an autoimmune disease caused her to miss too much work. She could barely pay her bills until she found the part-time job through a government-sponsored work program, but it expired last month.
Ms. Cherry is worried no one will hire her again. “I need the money desperately,” she said.
The nearly 30 percent of Americans ages 65 through 69 who were employed in 2012 was more than three times the European average. Among large, highly developed countries worldwide, only a few had more than 20 percent of their 65- to 69-year-olds on the job, and only Japan and Korea topped the U.S. figure.