"Are Retirement Norms Changing? – Cross-National Evidence from the European Social Survey "

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This study is the first to investigate whether and how retirement norms have changed. A so-called happiness approach is followed, which involves comparing the happiness of retirees to the happiness of workers aged 60 to 70 years for 15 European countries. Retirement norms are expected to moderate the happiness effect of being retired or not, meaning that the difference in happiness between retirees and older workers depends on the retirement rate, which is used as proxy for the social norm. It was expected that (i) the happiness effect of retirement vis-à-vis employment has been decreasing over time and that (ii) the happiness effect of retirement vis-à-vis employment decreases, as the retirement rate decreases. Results do not render support for either hypothesis. Instead, results suggest that retirees value their spare time and freedom even more, when more of their peers are still working. Two important questions arise from these unexpected results: (i) What is the right way to measure social norms? And (ii) Does deviation from a social norm always result in disutility? Future research has to learn us more about social norms, in order to be able to predict the participation effects of pension reforms properly.
Faculteit der Managementwetenschappen