Older Women and Work

Older women make up roughly 54% majority of older people in the United States. In the age group 55 years old and older, women outnumber men by 6.7 million. Older women in the labor force has rapidly grown over the past few decades and is predicted to continue its growth over the next coming years.

In the United States, the average age has been increasing and this trend is to continue between 2011 and 2050. Women will continue to outnumber men growing the gender imbalance and raising concern for retirement security among women.

The older population’s racial/ethnic composition will also significantly change. All population groups are expected to increase in size between 2011 and 2050. Hispanic women will quadruple in size, Asian women will triple, Black women will double, and White women increase by a fifth.

Most increases in labor force participation rate will come from older women ages 55 and older. See the table below:

Labor Force Participation (%)
Year 1980 Year 2012 Year 2020
Women, 55-64 41.3 59.4 66.6
Men, 55-64 72.1 69.9 71.1
Women, 65+ 8.1 14.4 19.2
Men, 65+ 19.0 23.6 26.7

In the year 2012, roughly 70% of working women ages 55 and older worked full-time jobs, however, women in this age group for all women overall were more likely to work part-time positions. The least skilled positions had the highest part-time employment. Part-time jobs are less likely to offer benefits including insurance or even retirement.

Retirement Security

Older Americans are reliant on Social Security during retirement. Those in the bottom fifth of the income distribution rely on Social Security for over 80% of their income.

If Social Security income didn’t exist, about 15 million older people (ages 65+) would have been below the poverty line back in 2012. The number of elderly in poverty would have been quadrupled.

However, older women are more likely to re-enter the workforce, which decreases their Social Security income. Women also have less earnings yearly as opposed to men, which also leaves less saved for retirement in their lifetime.

Supports for Older Women and Work

Tools that can enhance older women’s access to better jobs and sufficient wages and benefits:

  • access to targeted training
  • ergonomically designed jobs
  • workplace flexibility
  • tackle age discrimination


Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)

Older Workers, Rising Skill Requirements, Re-envisioning the Public Workforce System

Facts About Age Discrimination

AARP Employer Pledge Program

Women’s Bureau U.S. Department of Labor – Older Women and Work