The Journal of Economic History

Notes and Discussion

The Trend in the Rate of Labor Force Participation of Older Men, 1870–1930: A Reply to Moen

Roger L. Ransoma1 and Richard Sutcha2

a1 Professor of History and Economics, University of California, Riverside, CA 92502

a2 Professor of Economics and History, and Director of the Institute of Business and Economic Research, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720


In the 1986 volume of this JOURNAL we discussed the frequency of retirement and downward occupational mobility (on-the-job retirement) of older men in the United States at the end of the nineteenth century.1 As we noted, study of retirement in the years before World War II is hampered by the lack of data on the labor force status of individuals. Indeed, until the concept of “gainful employment” was replaced by that of the “labor force” in 1940, the official census figures on occupations contained a large proportion of older men and women who by today's standard would be regarded as retired2.