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Age in AmericaThe Colonial Era to the Present$
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Corinne T. Field and Nicholas L. Syrett

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9781479870011

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479870011.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM NYU Press SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.nyu.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of NYU Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in NYSO for personal use.date: 29 May 2022

Age and Retirement

Age and Retirement

Major Issues in the American Experience

(p.187) 9 Age and Retirement
Age in America

William Graebner

NYU Press

This chapter divides the history of retirement in America into four distinct phases. In the colonial and early national periods, people used functional age—what they could do and how they felt—to determine when to stop working. In the late nineteenth century, a few workers began to retire at a particular age due to the age-based provisions of private and public pension plans, particularly the benefits available to aging veterans of the Civil War. Age-based retirement did not become widespread, however, until the 1935 passage of the Social Security Act, which linked money with particular ideas about age sixty-five. Social Security kicked off the pension boom of the 1940s and 1950s, when more workers became eligible for retirement benefits at a particular age. This era came to an end in the 1970s and 1980s, as legislators and courts attacked age discrimination and employers demanded greater flexibility from workers of all ages. To understand these shifts, William Graebner argues that we need to analyze factors that “push” older people out of jobs—such as age discrimination and mandatory retirement—as well as programs that “pull” them into retirement—such as pension and Social Security payments.

Keywords:   retirement, functional age, workers, pensions, veterans, Social Security, sixty-five, age discrimination, employers, older people

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