Skip to main content

Retiree health insurance and disengagement from a career job (Robinson and Clark 2010)

Absence of conflict of interest.

Citation

Robinson, C., & Clark, R. (2010). Retiree health insurance and disengagement from a career job. Journal of Labor Research, 31(3), 247-262.

Highlights

  • The study examined the effect of availability of retiree health insurance (RHI) on a person’s decision to leave a career job (a measure of retirement).
  • Using data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), the authors used a nonexperimental approach to estimate the likelihood of retirement for those who worked at firms with RHI compared with those who worked at firms without RHI.
  • The study found that workers at firms that offer RHI are more likely to retire than those at firms that do not offer RHI.
  • The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is moderate because it was based on a well-implemented nonexperimental design. This means we would be somewhat confident that any estimated effects would be attributable to the availability at RHI, but other factors might also have contributed.

Intervention Examined

Retiree Health Insurance

Features of the Intervention

RHI is a benefit offered by some employers, providing health insurance to those who have retired from the firm. To be eligible, most firms require that people have worked at the firm for a minimum number of years and be a certain age. Often, these plans are phased out after people become eligible for Medicare.

Features of the Study

The authors looked at the effects of firms offering RHI to employees on workers’ decisions to leave their career job (namely, their decision to retire). The authors used longitudinal data from the HRS, a public data set, as well as the Rand HRS files, from 1992 to 2006. The survey is conducted every two years. Because the authors restricted the sample to those ages 50 to 60 years old in 1992, they have at least two follow-up data points for the oldest sample members before they became eligible for Medicare at age 65.

The study sample included those ages 50 to 60 who worked full time in 1992 and worked at the same job for at least 10 years. The sample included 2,102 people; a majority of the sample was male and white. The average age was 55 years old, and the average job tenure was 24 years.

The review focused on the analysis using the propensity-score matching. The authors constructed the matched sample and used regression analyses, accounting for age, gender, and race, to estimate impacts.

Findings

Employment

  • The study found that workers at firms that offer RHI are 16 percent more likely to retire than those at firms that do not offer RHI; this finding is not statistically significant.

Considerations for Interpreting the Findings

Although this report uses a propensity-score matching method, it is not clear from the report what key characteristics intervention and comparison groups were matched on. The authors also did not provide sufficient details to determine whether the matching succeeded. But because the authors controlled for key variables in the regression based on the matched sample, the study received a moderate rating.

The authors were not able to measure whether people were actually eligible for RHI or took it up; instead the study estimates the effects of working at a firm that has RHI available to employees.

Causal Evidence Rating

The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is moderate because it was based on a well-implemented nonexperimental design. This means we would be somewhat confident that any estimated effects would be attributable to the availability at RHI, but other factors might also have contributed. The study, however, did not find statistically significant effects. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the availability of RHI; other factors are likely to have contributed.

Reviewed by CLEAR

January 2020

Topic Area