Numbers, Facts and Trends Shaping Your World

Older Workers Are Growing in Number and Earning Higher Wages


Current Population Survey methodology

Most of the analysis of the characteristics and growth of the older workforce is derived from the Current Population Survey (CPS). Administered jointly by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the CPS is a monthly survey of approximately 60,000 occupied households that typically interviews about 50,000 households. It is the source of the nation’s official statistics on unemployment and is explicitly designed to survey the labor force. It is representative of the civilian noninstitutionalized population.

The CPS does not ask all the same questions to all respondents every month. The Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC) of the CPS is conducted in March of every year. The ASEC survey typically features an expanded sample of more than 75,000 households with about 70,000 interviews. The ASEC collected in 2023 had about 57,000 households.

Questions on worker’s earnings are asked of a quarter of the sample each month, referred to as the outgoing rotation group.

The CPS microdata used in this report is the Integrated Public Use Microdata Series (IPUMS), provided by the University of Minnesota. The IPUMS assigns uniform codes, to the extent possible, to data collected in the CPS over the years. Read more about the IPUMS, including variable definition and sampling error.

The estimates of the hourly pay gap between older and younger workers use the same methodology that Pew Research Center employs to estimate the gender wage gap. Refer to “How Pew Research measured the gender pay gap” for more details.

Survey of Household Economics and Decisionmaking methodology

Information on retirement status and pursuit of gig activities is derived from the 2022 Survey of Household Economics and Decisionmaking (SHED). The Federal Reserve has fielded the SHED annually in the fourth quarter of each year since 2013. The SHED sample is representative of the adult civilian noninstitutionalized population. The 2022 SHED had 11,667 respondents, of which 678 were employed adults ages 65 and older.

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