Husbands' and wives’ preferences for joint retirement: evidence from a multi-actor study among older workers

Maria Eismann, Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute (NIDI) and University of Amsterdam
Kène Henkens, Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute (NIDI)
Matthijs Kalmijn, University of Amsterdam

What are contemporary employment patterns of older couples? Among dual-earner couples, what are the preferences of husbands and wives for joint retirement? How can these preferences be explained? The rising number of employed (married) women reaching public pension age results in a rapidly increasing number of dual-earner couples among older workers. These couples’ decision-making dynamics affect pension and social security reforms aiming to delay retirement. However, up-to-date information on retirement patterns of dual-earner couples is scarce. In addition, little is known about how husbands’ preferences for joint retirement influences their wives’ preferences and vice-versa. We will present first results from the NIDI Pension Panel Survey (2015), a multi-actor study of almost 6,800 older workers (age 60-65) and, where applicable, their spouses. In contrast to most other studies, we collected data from both spouses, which allowed us to study employment patterns at the couple level, rather than compare men and women at the aggregate level. The data also enabled us to test the hypothesis that older workers prefer joint retirement when they are weakly attached to the labour market (e.g., occupational status, job satisfaction), but strongly attached to their spouse (e.g., relationship duration, relationship quality). Besides these individual determinants, we predicted that having a spouse who prefers joint retirement will also strengthen one’s own preferences to retire jointly. The results showed that almost 60% of the couples in our sample were dual-earners. Of these dual-earner couples, a sizeable minority (30%) preferred joint retirement. In approximately 30% of the dual-earner couples either the husband or the wife preferred to retire jointly. As expected, husbands’ and wives’ preferences to retire jointly were influenced by labour market attachment and relationship attachment. Importantly, spouses strongly influenced each other’s preferences for joint retirement.

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Presented in Session 26: Aging and retirement