Study Suggests Ending Mandatory University Retirement Had Limited Effects

January 3, 2011

A new report from the National Science Foundation suggests that the elimination of mandatory retirement for science, engineering and health doctorate holders over the age of 70 employed in higher education had minimal effects. Authors Thomas B. Hoffer, Scott Sederstrom, and Deborah Harper found that the retirement rate for those 71 to 75 dropped about 4 percentage points between 87.5 percent 1993 and 1995 (the end of mandatory retirement was in 1994) and stayed below 85 percent from 1995 to 2003. But other results from the study suggest that other factors are at play. Compared with 1993, degree holders at younger ages -- who never would have been covered by mandatory retirement laws when they were in effect -- also saw slight declines in retirement rates in the years after 1993. This runs counter to what many expected in 1993, says P. Brett Hammond, an expert in higher education retirement policy. In short, as Nirmala Kannankutty, an adviser on the project, put it to Inside Higher Ed via e-mail: "Retirement is a fairly complex process to look at." So while the change in mandatory retirement clearly had some impact, the report by Hoffer, Sederstrom and Harper suggests it was limited and difficult to pinpoint.

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