, Volume 56, Issue 3, pp 1105–1129 | Cite as

Looking Back in Anger? Retirement and Unemployment Scarring

  • Clemens HetschkoEmail author
  • Andreas Knabe
  • Ronnie Schöb


Unemployment affects future working conditions and job security negatively, thus reducing life satisfaction after reemployment. These employment-related scars of unemployment should not matter anymore when a person has retired. Using German panel data, we analyze unemployed persons’ transition into retirement to test whether unemployment leaves scars beyond working life and thus for reasons that are not employment-related. We find that involuntary unemployment between the last job and retirement causes a loss in life satisfaction after retirement. People who influenced or even initiated unemployment, by contrast, show no scarring. The scarring effect goes beyond what can be explained by the income loss originating from reduced pensions. It shows up independently of whether the unemployment spell directly before retirement was the only experience of unemployment in a person’s career, or whether she had also experienced unemployment at earlier times. We do not find evidence that early retirement or involuntary retirement are the reasons why formerly unemployed retirees display unemployment scarring.


Retirement Life satisfaction Unemployment scarring Involuntary unemployment 



We thank the Editors and two anonymous referees for their helpful suggestions, and Tom Günther for excellent research assistance. Moreover, we are grateful for comments on a previous version to C. Katharina Spieß; Reto Odermatt; and participants of the SOEP seminar at DIW Berlin (2013), the IAAEU seminar at the University of Trier (2013), the annual conference of the German Economic Association, Hamburg (2014), and the IAB conference Labor Market Prospects of Older Workers, Nuremberg (2014). Clemens Hetschko and Ronnie Schöb acknowledge financial support by the German Science Foundation (DFG) through Project SCHO 1270/5-1.

Supplementary material

13524_2019_778_MOESM1_ESM.docx (132 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 132 kb)


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Copyright information

© Population Association of America 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Clemens Hetschko
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Andreas Knabe
    • 3
    • 4
  • Ronnie Schöb
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Freie Universität BerlinBerlinGermany
  2. 2.Institute for Employment Research (IAB)NurembergGermany
  3. 3.CESifoMunichGermany
  4. 4.Otto von Guericke University MagdeburgMagdeburgGermany

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