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Retirement and disability

As the population in developed countries ages and the demands on the social-security system increase, the labour supply and retirement choices of older workers has gained central stage in the policy and economic debate. Older workers face specific demands on their time and specific risks that need to be taken into account if the design of retirement policies and insurance schemes for this group are to have some element of optimality. In particular, this is a stage of life when individuals become more vulnerable to changes in health and cognition that may limit their productivity and work capacity; they may also face increasing demands on their time, for instance if caring for a ill spouse or for a grand-child.

Our research in this area aims to explain patterns of labour force participation among older people and how these have changed over time, looking at how people respond to financial incentives from the tax, benefit and pension systems, and how these responses interact with factors such as family circumstances and health and cognition shocks. IFS is a partner in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA), an interdisciplinary data resource on health, economic position and quality of life as people age that supports much of our research on older workers.

Selected highlights

Journal article
In this paper we begin by describing the labour market behaviour of individuals around pension age.
Journal article
This articles sets out to assess the relative heath status of older individuals in England and the United States, especially how their health status varies by important indicators of socioeconomic position.
Book chapter
This chapter is part of the IFS Green Budget 2017.
Video clip
Why is the UK experiencing an ageing population, and what does that mean for the public finances? Carl Emmerson, Deputy Director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, explains.
Journal article
The old age provisions of the Medicaid program were designed to insure retirees against medical expenses. We estimate a structural model of savings and medical spending and use it to compute the distribution of lifetime Medicaid transfers and Medicaid valuations across currently single retirees.


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James Banks
Co-Director, CPP
Jonathan Cribb
Associate Director
Carl Emmerson
Deputy Director