Older Doctoral Scientists and Engineers: Selected Labor Force Characteristics

Summary and Conclusions


This report has presented information on educational and work-related activities, and characteristics of doctoral scientists and engineers as a function of age using data from the 1997 Survey of Doctorate Recipients (SDR). During the mid-1990s, there was a continued trend towards aging of this population. Furthermore, higher percentages of older doctoral scientists and engineers continued working than scientists and engineers whose highest degree were bachelor's or master's degrees. In 1997, about half of those 65 to 69 and about a quarter of those 70-75 with doctorates were still working. Those with bachelor's or master's degrees as their highest degree who were not employed were less likely to be looking for work than those with doctorates.

Employed doctoral scientists and engineers in industry at 60 years of age and older were much more likely to state that they had accepted a buyout offer sometime in the past than those working in government or education. However, doctoral scientists and engineers 60 years of age and older were less likely to accept a buyout offer they had received than those with bachelor's or master's as their highest degree.

Older doctoral scientists and engineers in industry were less likely to have had health benefits available to them than their counterparts in education or government. Higher percentages of doctoral scientists and engineers had access to health benefits than scientists and engineers whose highest degree were bachelor's or master's degrees. About 70 percent of doctoral scientists and engineers aged 65 and older were very satisfied with their jobs, compared to 50 percent of those aged 54 or younger.

Two indicators derived from 1995 SDR data, the article publication rate and the patent activity rate, provide limited information on the relationship between the productivity of doctoral scientists and engineers and their age. Doctoral scientists and engineers in their 60's and 70's were much less likely to have authored or co-authored at least one published paper within a five-year period than their counterparts in their 40's. The gap is smaller in the education sector than in government or industry. In contrast, the patent activity rate, an indicator based on patent applications, was only about a third greater for doctoral scientists and engineers in their 40's than those on their 60's and 70's. Furthermore, the patent activity rate for doctoral scientists and engineers in the education sector is about the same for those aged 65-75 as for all ages combined.

This report represents a first cut at analyzing some of the results of the 1997 SDR concerning labor force characteristics and age. Further analysis could examine the results using other characteristics such as occupation, gender, citizenship and race/ethnicity.


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