Aging and Economic Well-Being in Rural America: Exploring Income and Employment Challenges

Part of the Understanding Population Trends and Processes book series (UPTA, volume 7)


Rapid population aging in the United States makes the income and employment circumstances of older workers an increasingly significant concern for individuals, employers, and society as a whole. In this chapter, we begin by providing a statistical portrait of the economic well-being of older Americans at the beginning of the twenty-first century, outlining differences between older adults in nonmetropolitan and metropolitan areas in terms of income and income packaging, poverty, labor force participation, and employment hardship. We then turn our attention to the special considerations an aging work force raises for both employers and older workers, with a special focus on the unique challenges faced in rural workplaces. Finally, we conclude with a summary discussion.


Labor Force Participation Turnover Intention Metro Area Social Security Benefit Employee Stock Option 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This research was supported in part by funding from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, (BOEM), US Department of the Interior. We thank BOEM for this support and note that the contents of this chapter do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the agency. We also thank Jared LeDoux and Candice Myers for their research and editorial assistance. Last, we thank the editors of this volume for their helpful comments on previous drafts of this chapter.


  1. AARP. (2009). Best employers for workers over 50: 2009 winners. Accessed 17 Aug 2011.
  2. Ali, H., & Davies, D. R. (2003). The effects of age, sex and tenure on the job performance of rubber tappers. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 76(3), 381–391. doi: 10.1348/096317903769647238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Avolio, B. J., & Waldman, D. A. (1990). An examination of age and cognitive test performance across Job complexity and occupational types. Journal of Applied Psychology, 75(1), 43–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Baltes, P. B., & Baltes, M. M. (Eds.). (1990). Successful aging: Perspectives from the behavioral sciences. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Baltes, B. B., Briggs, T. E., Huff, J. W., Wright, J. A., & Neuman, G. A. (1999). Flexible and compressed workweek schedules: A meta-analysis of their effects on work-related criteria. Journal of Applied Psychology, 84(4), 496–513. doi: 10.1037/0021-9010.84.4.496.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Beehr, T. A. (1986). The process of retirement: A review and recommendations for future investigation. Personnel Psychology, 39(1), 31–55. doi: 10.1111/j.1744-6570.1986.tb00573.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Beehr, T. A., & Bennett, M. M. (2008). Unemployment and retirerment. In J. Barling & C. I. Cooper (Eds.), The Sage Handbook of Organizational Behavior (Vol. 1, pp. 217–232). Los Angeles: Sage.Google Scholar
  8. Beehr, T. A., Glazer, S., Nielson, N. L., & Farmer, S. J. (2000). Work and nonwork predictors of employees’ retirement ages. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 57(2), 206–225. doi: 10.1006/jvbe.1999.1736.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Clogg, C. C. (1979). Measuring underemployment: Demographic indicators for the United States. New York: Academic.Google Scholar
  10. Clogg, C. C., & Sullivan, T. A. (1983). Labor force composition and underemployment trends, 1969–1980. Social Indicators Research, 12(2), 117–152.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Colquitt, J. A., LePine, J. A., & Noe, R. A. (2000). Toward an integrative theory of training motivation: A meta-analytic path analysis of 20 years of research. Journal of Applied Psychology, 85(5), 678–707.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Colsher, P. L., Dorfman, L. T., & Wallace, R. B. (1988). Specific health conditions and work-retirement status among the elderly. Journal of Applied Gerontology, 7(4), 485–503. doi: 10.1177/073346488800700405.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Congressional Budget Office. (2011). CBO’s 2011 Long-term projections for social security: Additional information. Washington, DC: Congressional Budget Office, Congress of the United States.Google Scholar
  14. DeMoranville, C. W., Schoenbachler, D. D., & Przytulski, J. (1998). Wellness at work. Marketing Health Services, 18(2), 14–24.Google Scholar
  15. Dorfman, L. T. (1998). Economic status, work, and retirement among the rural elderly. In R. T. Coward & J. A. Krout (Eds.), Aging in rural settings: Life circumstances and distinctive features (pp. 47–66). New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  16. Economic Research Service. (2007). Measuring rurality: What is rural? Accessed 15 July 2010.
  17. Economic Research Service. (2008). Rural population and migration. Accessed 7 Sep 2009.
  18. Emery, L., Hale, S., & Myerson, J. (2008). Age differences in proactive interference, working memory, and abstract reasoning. Psychology and Aging, 23(3), 634–645. doi: 10.1037/a0012577.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Feldman, D. C. (1994). The decision to retire early: A review and conceptualization. The Academy of Management Review, 19(2), 285–311.Google Scholar
  20. Freund, A. M., & Baltes, P. B. (1998). Selection, optimization, and compensation as strategies of life management: Correlations with subjective indicators of successful aging. Psychology and Aging, 13(4), 531–543.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Glasgow, N., & Brown, D. L. (1998). Older, rural, and poor. In R. T. Coward & J. A. Krout (Eds.), Aging in rural settings: Life circumstances and distinctive features (pp. 187–207). New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  22. Glasgow, N., Holden, K. C., McLaughlin, D. K., & Rowles, G. D. (1993). The rural elderly and poverty. In The Rural Sociological Society Task Force on Persistent Poverty (Ed.), Persistent poverty in rural America (pp. 259–291). Boulder: Westview.Google Scholar
  23. Gordon, R. A., & Arvey, R. D. (2004). Age bias in laboratory and field settings: A meta-analytic investigation1. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 34(3), 468–492. doi: 10.1111/j.1559-1816.2004.tb02557.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hansson, R. O., Dekoekkoek, P. D., Neece, W. M., & Patterson, D. W. (1997). Successful aging at work: Annual review, 1992–1996—The older worker and transitions to retirement. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 51(2), 202–233. doi: 10.1006/jvbe.1997.1605.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hayward, M. D., & Hardy, M. A. (1985). Early retirement processes among older men. Research on Aging, 7(4), 491–515. doi: 10.1177/0164027585007004001.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hedge, J. W., Borman, W. C., & Lammlein, S. E. (2006). The aging workforce: Realities, myths, and implications for organizations. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hunter, J. E., & Hunter, R. F. (1984). Validity and utility of alternative predictors of job performance. Psychological Bulletin, 96(1), 72–98. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.96.1.72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Jensen, L., & McLaughlin, D. K. (1997). The escape from poverty among rural and urban elders. The Gerontologist, 37(4), 462–468. doi: 10.1093/geront/37.4.462.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Jex, S. M., Wang, M., & Zarubin, A. (2007). Aging and occupational health. In K. S. Shultz & G. A. Adams (Eds.), Aging and work in the twenty-first century (pp. 199–223). Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  30. Kim, S., & Feldman, D. C. (2000). Working in retirement: The antecedents of bridge employment and its consequences for quality of life in retirement. The Academy of Management Journal, 43(6), 1195–1210.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kite, M. E., Stockdale, G. D., Whitley, B. E., & Johnson, B. T. (2005). Attitudes toward younger and older adults: An updated meta-analytic review. Journal of Social Issues, 61(2), 241–266. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-4560.2005.00404.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Kliegl, R., Smith, J., & Baltes, P. B. (1990). On the locus and process of magnification of age differences during mnemonic training. Developmental Psychology, 26(6), 894–904.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kramer, A. F., & Madden, D. J. (2008). Attention. In F. I. M. Craik & T. A. Salthouse (Eds.), The handbook of aging and cognition (pp. 189–250). New York: Psychology Press.Google Scholar
  34. Luchak, A. A., Pohler, D. M., & Gellatly, I. R. (2008). When do committed employees retire? The effects of organizational commitment on retirement plans under a defined-benefit pension plan. Human Resource Management, 47(3), 581–599. doi: 10.1002/hrm.20233.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Madsen, S. R. (2003). Wellness in the workplace: Preparing employees for change. The Organizational Development Journal, 21(1), 46–53.Google Scholar
  36. Marks, N. F. (1998). Does It hurt to care? Caregiving, work-family conflict, and midlife well-being. Journal of Marriage and Family, 60(4), 951–966.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. McLaughlin, D. K., & Holden, K. C. (1993). Nonmetropolitan elderly women: A portrait of economic vulnerability. Journal of Applied Gerontology, 12(3), 320–334. doi: 10.1177/073346489301200303.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. McLaughlin, D. K., & Jensen, L. (1993). Poverty among older americans: The plight of nonmetropolitan elders. Journal of Gerontology, 48(2), S44–S54. doi: 10.1093/geronj/48.2.S44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. McLaughlin, D. K., & Jensen, L. (1995). Becoming poor: The experiences of elders. Rural Sociology, 60(2), 202–223. doi: 10.1111/j.1549-0831.1995.tb00569.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. McLaughlin, D. K., & Jensen, L. (2000). Work history and U.S. elders’ transitions into poverty. The Gerontologist, 40(4), 469–479. doi: 10.1093/geront/40.4.469.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Miller, D., Cox, S., Giesen, M., Bean, C., Adams-Price, C., Sanderson, P., et al. (1993). Further development and validation of an age-based equal opportunity measure for organizations: An operational definition of ecological dissonance. Psychology. A Journal of Human Behavior, 30(3–4), 32–37.Google Scholar
  42. Moffatt, S., & Glasgow, N. (2009). How useful is the concept of social exclusion when applied to rural older people in the United Kingdom and the United States? Regional Studies, 43(10), 1291–1303. doi: 10.1080/00343400903002697.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Muller, C. F., & Boaz, R. F. (1988). Health as a reason or a rationalization for being retired? Research on Aging, 10(1), 37–55. doi: 10.1177/0164027588101002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Ng, T. W. H., & Feldman, D. C. (2008). The relationship of age to ten dimensions of job performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 93(2), 392–423. doi: 10.1037/0021-9010.93.2.392.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Park, D. C., & Schwarz, N. (2000). Cognitive aging: A primer. Philadelphia: Psychology Press.Google Scholar
  46. Parks, K. M., & Steelman, L. A. (2008). Organizational wellness programs: A meta-analysis. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 13(1), 58–68. doi: 10.1037/1076-8998.13.1.58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Perrin, T. (2005). The business case for workers age 50+: Planning for tomorrow’s talent needs in today’s competitive environment. Washington, DC: AARP.Google Scholar
  48. Perry, E. L., & Finkelstein, L. M. (1999). Toward a broader view of age discrimination in employment-related decisions: A joint consideration of organizational factors and cognitive processes. Human Resource Management Review, 9(1), 21–49. doi: 10.1016/s1053-4822(99)00010-8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Posthuma, R. A., & Campion, M. A. (2009). Age stereotypes in the workplace: Common stereotypes, moderators, and future research directions. Journal of Management, 35(1), 158–188. doi: 10.1177/0149206308318617.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Pyron, D. (2008). Overcoming recruitment and retention challenges. Accessed 30 Mar 2010.
  51. Reese, S. (1999). Healthy workers, healthier profits. Business and Health, 17(6), 33–37.Google Scholar
  52. Rizzuto,T. E., Cherry, K. E., & LeDoux, J. A. (2012). The aging arocess and cognitive capabilities. In J. W. Hedge & W. C. Borman (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of work and aging (pp. 236–255). New York: Oxford.Google Scholar
  53. Rogers, W. A., & Fisk, A. D. (1991a). Age-related differences in the maintenance and modification of automatic processes: Arithmetic stroop interference. Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, 33(1), 45–56.Google Scholar
  54. Rogers, W. A., & Fisk, A. D. (1991b). Are age differences in consistent-mapping visual search due to feature learning or attention training? Psychology and Aging, 6(4), 542–550.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Rosen, B., & Jerdee, T. H. (1985). Older employees: New roles for valued resources. Homewood: Dow Jones-Irwin.Google Scholar
  56. Rumelt, R. P. (1984). Towards a strategic theory of the firm. In R. B. Lamb (Ed.), Competitive strategic management (pp. 556–570). Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  57. Rural Assistance Center. (2009). Health and human services information for rural America. Accessed 9 Sep 2009.
  58. Salthouse, T. A., & Maurer, T. J. (1996). Aging, job performance, and career development. In J. E. Birren, K. W. Schaie, R. P. Abeles, M. Gatz, & T. A. Salthouse (Eds.), Handbook of the psychology of aging (4th ed., pp. 353–364). San Diego: Academic.Google Scholar
  59. Schafer, W. (1996). Stress management for wellness (3rd ed.). Chico: Harcourt Brace.Google Scholar
  60. Schmidt, F. L., & Hunter, J. E. (1998). The validity and utility of selection methods in personnel psychology: Practical and theoretical implications of 85 years of research findings. Psychological Bulletin, 124(2), 262–274.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Schmidt, J., & Lee, K. (2008). Voluntary retirement and organizational turnover intentions: The differential associations with work and non-work commitment constructs. Journal of Business and Psychology, 22(4), 297–309. doi: 10.1007/s10869-008-9068-y.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Schmitt, N., & McCune, J. T. (1981). The relationship between job attitudes and the decision to retire. The Academy of Management Journal, 24(4), 795–802.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Simon, R. (1996). Too damn old. Money, 25(7), 118–126.Google Scholar
  64. Slack, T., & Jensen, L. (2008). Employment hardship among older workers: Does residential and gender inequality extend into older age? The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 63(1), S15–S24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Sterns, H. L., & Doverspike, D. (1989). Aging and the training and learning process. In I. L. Goldstein (Ed.), Training and development in organizations (pp. 299–332). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  66. Sturman, M. C. (2003). Searching for the inverted U-shaped relationship between time and performance: Meta-analyses of the experience/performance, tenure/performance, and age/performance relationships. Journal of Management, 29(5), 609–640. doi: 10.1016/s0149-2063_03_00028-x.Google Scholar
  67. Sullivan, T. A. (1978). Marginal workers, marginal jobs: Underutilization of the U.S. work force. Austin: University of Texas Press.Google Scholar
  68. Talaga, J. A., & Beehr, T. A. (1995). Are there gender differences in predicting retirement decisions? Journal of Applied Psychology, 80(1), 16–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Taylor, M. A., & Shore, L. M. (1995). Predictors of planned retirement age: An application of Beehr’s model. Psychology and Aging, 10(1), 76–83. doi: 10.1037/0882-7974.10.1.76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Toossi, M. (2007). Labor force projections to 2016: More workers in their golden years. Monthly Labor Review, 130, 33–52.Google Scholar
  71. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2007). Occupational employment projections. Accessed 31 Dec 2009.
  72. US Census Bureau. (2010). Poverty thresholds 2009. Accessed 15 July 2010.
  73. Wernerfelt, B. (1984). A resource-based view of the firm. Strategic Management Journal, 5(2), 171–180. doi: 10.1002/smj.4250050207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Wolfe, C., & Loraas, T. (2008). Knowledge sharing: The effects of incentives, environment, and person. Journal of Information Systems, 22(2), 53–76. doi: 10.2308/jis.2008.22.2.53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Wolfe, R., Parker, D., & Napier, N. (1994). Employee health management and organizational perfor­mance. The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 30(1), 22–42. doi: 10.1177/0021886394301002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Wrenn, K. A., & Maurer, T. J. (2004). Beliefs about older workers’ learning and development behavior in relation to beliefs about malleability of skills, age-related decline, and control. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 34(2), 223–242. doi: 10.1111/j.1559-1816.2004.tb02546.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Zhan, Y., Wang, M., Liu, S., & Shultz, K. S. (2009). Bridge employment and retirees’ health: A longitudinal investigation. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 14(4), 374–389. doi: 10.1037/a0015285.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht. 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyLouisiana State UniversityBaton RougeUSA
  2. 2.School of Human Resource Education and Workforce DevelopmentLouisiana State UniversityLouisianaUSA

Personalised recommendations