Dora Costa has documented changes in retirement over the 20th century. In 1900, relatively few men retired, and those who did often lived with their children. Most men worked until they died, generally at much younger ages than now. By contrast, there is now a large population older than 65 who are formally retired but continue to live healthy, active, and independent lives. Costa investigates racial differences in retirement rates and living arrangements over the century and shows strong convergence during the first half of the century, about half of which is due to the creation of the Social Security System. Dayanand Manoli is using data from employees in Austria to examine the effects of other policy changes — pension reforms between 1984 and 2003 — to identify the effects of pension benefits on retirement decisions.
Leah Platt Boustan is examining implications for the US labor force of two great historical migrations: the migration from Europe to North America in the late 19th and early 20th century, and the Great Migration of blacks from the rural South to the urban North in the mid-20th century. To examine migration from Europe to North America, Boustan measures the economic return to migrating from Europe and assesses whether migrants were positively or negatively selected from the European population. She compares the labor market outcomes of cohorts of European migrants from 20 sending countries to those of the native-born using Census records from 1900 to 1930. Another strand of Boustan’s research uses census data to challenge the traditional view of the Great Migration of blacks from south to north as a path for black economic progress, arguing instead that migration produced both winners and losers. With Matthew Kahn and others, she is launching a new project examining the long term effects of natural disasters on migration and later economic outcomes.