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The Impact of Hours Flexibility on Career Employment, Bridge Jobs, and the Timing of Retirement

Kevin E. Cahill, Michael D. Giandrea, and Joseph F. Quinn


To what extent does hours flexibility in career employment impact the retirement process? Workplace flexibility policies have the potential to improve both the welfare of employees and the business outcomes of employers. These policies, and hours flexibility in particular for older Americans, have also been touted as a way to reduce turnover. For older Americans, reductions in turnover could mean more years in career employment, fewer years in bridge employment, and little or no impact on the timing of retirement. Alternatively, hours flexibility in career employment could lead to longer working lives and delayed retirements. The distinction between the two outcomes is important if hours flexibility policies, such as phased retirement, are to be considered an option for alleviating the strains of an aging society. This paper describes how hours flexibility in career employment impacts the retirement patterns of older Americans. We use data on three cohorts of older Americans from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), a large nationally-representative dataset that began in 1992. We explore the extent to which hours flexibility arrangements are available and utilized in career employment and explore the extent to which such arrangements impact job transitions later in life. We find that bridge job prevalence is higher among those with access to hours flexibility in career employment compared to those without hours flexibility. Further, while we find mixed evidence that hours flexibility extends time in career employment, we do find that hours flexibility in career employment is associated with longer tenure on bridge jobs. Taken together these results suggest that hours flexibility in career employment is associated with extended work lives, particularly in post-career employment.