9 Association of Research Libraries Research Library Issues 295 2018 One explanation for the disconnect between the actual and projected retirement behavior among ARL professionals is the 2008 recession, an event that disrupted everyone’s idea of economic normalcy. In the US economy as a whole, the recession resulted in the loss of almost nine million jobs, and doubled the unemployment rate.4 In the process, the recession had a devastating impact on pension savings, and on perceptions of retirement preparedness.5 Coming as it did at a time of broad-based disinvestment in public infrastructure of all kinds, budget cuts to higher education were common, with some states reducing support by as much as 55% between 2008 and 2016.6 In such a climate, it seems reasonable that more individuals would consider their reduced wealth and the general economic uncertainty around them, and delay their retirements as a result.7 Alternatively, it could be that the 2000 projections simply missed a delayed retirement phenomenon that would have happened even without a recession. Labor force projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) have predicted rising numbers of individuals throughout the older age cohorts since at least 2000, a function of aging baby boomers.8 A 2012 BLS study acknowledged the recession, but discounted its impact.9 The notion that delayed retirement might be nothing more than a reflection of general demographic dynamics can be found in the CPS data noted above. Librarians in that data are just one of hundreds of professions in the US, and that larger population also shows signs of a recent trend towards delayed retirement. Basic population demographics must account for some of the delayed retirement among ARL professionals, and it may account for most of it. It is worth noting that while Canadian ARL professionals can also be said to be delaying retirement, they do so at half the rate of their population had an unusual skew towards the oldest age cohorts: 24% were aged 60 and over, up from just 9% in 1986. 2015 ARL [professional] …the
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