The Evolving History of Retirement within the United States

Michael J. Zickar

in The Oxford Handbook of Retirement

Published in print October 2012 | ISBN: 9780199746521
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

 The Evolving History of Retirement within the United States

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In this chapter, I review the history of retirement as it has evolved from ancient times to today. Throughout the chapter, I focus on the history of retirement within the United States, though not exclusively. I show that retirement as it currently exists is a relatively new phenomenon brought about by changing demographics, improved economic situations, and social reform legislation. I break this review into separate time periods, focusing on a review of the cultural attitudes toward retirement, economic practices, and legislative efforts. There are several lessons to learn from the review of this history. First, older workers in previous eras experienced the end of their working life in ways that would seem alien to today’s workers. Second, the study of retirement requires an interdisciplinary approach that includes economics, gerontology, sociology, and psychology. Finally, the review of retirement history makes one appreciate that there is still much more to learn!

Keywords: history of retirement; Social Security; social welfare; pensions; aging; economic history

Article.  8551 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Organizational Psychology ; Social Psychology

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