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Retiring Early Just Might Kill You, Says New Research

Collecting Social Security at age 62 may not be a good idea

By Christopher Condon

(Bloomberg) --We already know you’re better off financially the later you begin claiming Social Security. Now it seems there’s another reason to hold off on collecting those checks: If you retire early you’re more likely to die early as well.

A new study from Maria Fitzpatrick at Cornell University and Timothy Moore at the University of Melbourne shows a striking correlation between Social Security claims for early takers and a jump in mortality. This week’s economic research roundup also features a contrarian take on what drives unhealthy nutrition habits among poorer Americans and whether labor-market concentration is holding down wages in the U.S. Check this column each Tuesday for a survey of fresh studies from academia, agencies, think tanks and Wall Street. 

Retirement health risks

The Mortality Effects of Retirement: Evidence From Social Security Eligibility at Age 62
Published December 2017
Available on the National Bureau of Economic Research website

About a third of all Americans retire and start claiming Social Security benefits in their first month of eligibility when they turn 62. Fitzpatrick and Moore find this “may have an immediate, negative impact” on health. The effect is biggest on men in this scenario, who see an increase in mortality risk of about 20 percent.

The authors found no rise in mortality among those for whom 62 was not the eligibility threshold for collecting Social Security. Moreover, demographic groups with the highest rate of retirement at 62 had the highest mortality rate increases at that age. The paper notes that the phenomenon may be linked partly to existing health problems that force some to stop working early.

Weekly Demo(graphic)

Mortality Rates Have Increased for Working-age Rural Adults Since 2000
Updated Dec. 13
Available on the USDA website

Mortality rates for Americans as a whole, and especially for children, were down in 2013-2015 from 15 years prior. But death rates went in the opposite direction for rural, working-age people after more than a century of decline, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Abuse of prescription medications, especially opioids, and related heroine-overdose deaths played a large role in the increase.

‘Food deserts’ not to blame?

The Geography of Poverty and Nutrition: Food Deserts and Food Choices Across the United States
Published December 2017
Available on the National Bureau of Economic Research website

There is a popular argument that lower availability of healthy food choices in poorer neighborhoods has a meaningful, negative impact on eating habits. These so-called “food deserts” are dominated by grocery and convenience stores where healthy foods are in low supply and carry high prices. The authors of this study, however, reject that notion.

They find that the entrance of supermarkets offering healthy options didn’t materially increase healthy eating habits. The authors instead put more than 90 percent of the blame for nutrition inequality on differences in demand that are “partially explained by education, nutrition knowledge and regional preferences.”

A forgotten anti-trust argument

Labor Market Concentration
Published Dec. 15
Available on the Social Science Research Network website

Antitrust regulators tend to focus their scrutiny on how big mergers and acquisitions may affect pricing and consumers. New research shows they may be missing the anti-competitive impact these tie-ups have on the labor market. It may also help the Federal Reserve better understand low wage gains.

The authors used data from to analyze employer concentration in more than 8,000 labor markets categorized by occupation and geography. They found increased concentration of employers is associated with low wages. In fact, moving from the 25 percentile in concentration to the 75th percentile results in a wage decline of 15 percent to 25 percent.

To contact the author of this story: Christopher Condon in Washington at [email protected] To contact the editor responsible for this story: Randy Woods at [email protected] Sarah McGregor

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