How Many Retired People Live in California? (Part 3)

More fun with the American Community Survey!

So, in my previous blog post I figured out that there were 5,189,558 persons in California of retirement age (65-and-over) in 2015, out of a total statewide population of 39,144,818. The next step is to adjust this for both early retirees (younger than 65) and later retirees (still working after 65).

I went back to the US Census Bureau’s American Factfinder, and searched on the term “labor force.” Essentially I was looking for a table that shows the persons in the labor force, and not in the labor force, by age. The best table I found was “B23001″: Sex by Age by Employment Status for the Population 16 Years and Over.” So, I proceeded to download the B23001 data for 2015 for California, to a spreadsheet, to crunch the numbers. Basically trying to split persons, by age, into the “in labor force” versus “not in labor force” (or “NILFs”).

Of the 5,189,558 Californians age 65-and-over, 910,101 were still in the labor force, yielding 4,279,457 persons “not in labor force, age 65-and-over”. Let’s face it, if you’re working (either part-time or full-time) at age 70 or 75 or 99, you’re not retired (maybe semi-retired?) So, 82.5 percent of Californians age 65-and-over are not in the labor force (let’s label them “retired” for convenience sake!)

The other extreme is to look at Californians age 45-and-over. This group includes 15,062,181 Californians, 7,047,382 of whom are not in the labor force (46.8 percent of age 45-and-over.)

The question is, if you’re not in the labor force at age 50, are you “retired”? Or are you a full-time volunteer? a homemaker? disabled? long term out-of-work? Not easy to label these “young retirees” based on what is collected by the US Census Bureau!

Here is the “not in labor force” summary statistics for California, 2015, by age:

  • Persons Age 45-and-over: 7,047,382 not in labor force, 15,062,181 total (46.8% NILF)
  • Persons Age 55-and-over: 5,953,832 not in labor force, 9,819,040 total (60.6% NILF)
  • Persons Age 60-and-over: 5,235,445 not in labor force, 7,338,884 total (71.3% NILF)
  • Persons Age 65-and-over: 4,279,457 not in labor force, 5,189,558 total (82.5% NILF)

All of the work up to now suggests that the actual number of retired persons in California is a fairly fuzzy number, say, perhaps between 4.3 and 7.0 million in the year 2015. The more definitive answer is that there were 5.2 million persons of “retirement age” (age 65-and-over) in California.

It may be interesting to further explore the personal income characteristics of middle-aged and older people using data from the American Community Survey. This would require using the specialized datasets prepared by the US Census Bureau for this purpose: the Public Use Microdata Sample (PUMS). American Factfinder doesn’t have a table on detailed age by detailed labor force status by detailed personal income characteristics. But that kind of information can definitely be gleaned from the PUMS!

I’ll leave this “how many retired” question for a while, and turn to other topics of interest.



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