Boundaries of the Construct of Unemployment in the Preretirement Years: Exploring an Expanded Measurement of Lost-Work Opportunity

Maren Wright Voss, Soham Al Snih, Wei Li, Man Hung, Lorie Gage Richards, Mo Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


There is uncertainty related to whether retirement negatively affects health - possibly due to complexity around retirement decisions. Lost-work opportunity through unemployment or forced retirement has been shown to negatively affect health. Lost-work opportunity can be captured in two measurement fields, either a reported experience of being forced into retirement or reported unemployment. However, 17% of individuals retiring due to the loss of work opportunity identified in qualitative interviewing (i.e., unemployment, temporary lay-offs, company buy-outs, forced relocations, etc.) do not report this unemployment or involuntary retirement in quantitative survey responses. We propose broadening the conceptualization of late-career unemployment to incorporate other lost work opportunity scenarios. Using the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), a lost-work opportunity score (LOS) was computed from items indicating unemployment and forced or unplanned retirement. Correlations were computed between this LOS and all continuous variables in the RAND longitudinal compilation of the HRS to determine its convergent and discriminant validity. The LOS demonstrated a Chronbach's alpha of α =. 82 and had convergent validity with constructs of employment (9 variables), finances (36 variables), and health (14 variables), as predicted by the literature on retirement timing. No other continuous variables in the HRS were identified with a moderate or strong correlation to LOS, demonstrating discriminant validity. Further research should explore whether a combination of variables in the HRS can improve the accuracy of measuring lost-work opportunity. Improved precision in measurement, through an expanded conceptualization of lost-work opportunity, may help explicate the retirement-related factors that affect health, to inform policy and support healthy aging decisions at a societal level.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)59-63
Number of pages5
JournalWork, Aging and Retirement
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Industrial relations
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance (miscellaneous)
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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