DP2614 | Technical Progress and Early Retirement

Publication Date

28/11/2000

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Abstract

This Paper claims that technical progress induces early retirement of older workers. It supports this claim both theoretically and empirically. We present a model where part of human capital is technology-specific, so that technical progress erodes some existing human capital. This affects mostly older workers, who do not learn the new technology, since their career horizon is short. As a result their participation in the labour force declines. We find strong support to this erosion effect in US data, which shows that labour supply of older workers is negatively related to technical progress across sectors. Unlike the cross-section effect, the model is ambiguous about the aggregate effect of technical progress on labour participation of older workers. While in sectors with many innovations it falls due to erosion of human capital, in other sectors it increases due to higher wages. To examine which effect dominates, we run a time series test and find that the effect of average technical progress on aggregate labour force participation by the old is negative. Namely, the erosion effect dominates.