In-work poverty and retirement attitudes among a cohort born in 1958

The aim of this project is to explore retirement-related attitudes, aspirations, expectations, and plans for retirement among adults who are in their mid to late 50s. The study will consider in particular the impact of different working life trajectories, and in-work poverty on these attitudes in mid-life. In doing so, it will help to inform policymakers and other stakeholders interested in policies related to extending working lives and improving pension savings among adults experiencing low pay and/or poverty. The project is part of JRF’s broader focus on “Generations, work and poverty”, a research stream which has compared attitudes to work and retirement across different generations.

The subjects of the inquiry are members of the National Child Development Study (NCDS, also known as the 1958 birth cohort study).  This is a multi-disciplinary cohort study of some 17,000 babies born in a single week in Great Britain in 1958 who have been followed periodically since their birth, collecting information about their childhoods, and their experiences in adult life, most recently at the age of 55 in 2013. 

The proposed work is comprised of a quantitative element, which involves analysis of survey responses from the full sample of study members (around 9,000 of them at the latest sweep), and a qualitative element among a subset of (36) study members, which will be specifically designed and undertaken as part of this project.

The quantitative element of the project will to use the 1958 birth cohort study to:

1. Set out how much variation there is in individuals’ attitudes to retirement at age 50 and age 55 and other factors potentially influencing retirement plans such as private pension ownership and housing wealth;  

2. Explore how differences in these attitudes, and in pension and housing wealth relate to different income and working life histories – and in particular to experiences of poverty across their working lives; 

3. Consider how factors such as gender, education, health, caring responsibilities, partnerships, leisure activities, and current labour market status also relate to retirement attitudes, pension ownership and housing wealth; 

4. Examine factors relating to “early” exits from the labour market by the age of 55, and finally; 

5. Use the evidence from these analyses to inform the choice of a small sample of cohort study members with whom to examine these attitudes, aspirations, plans and expectations in more depth in a bespoke qualitative study.

The qualitative element of the study will involve 36 qualitative interviews conducted with a purposively sampled group of NCDS cohort members in order to explore these issues in greater depth.  Selecting cohort members with varying working life histories, we will investigate:

6. Cohort members’ attitudes, aspirations, plans and expectations for retirement, and those of their partners (where applicable); 

7. The factors - past, present, and projected future - that cohort members themselves feel influence their attitudes, aspirations, plans and expectations.

Read the full papers

'Lifetime poverty and attitudes to retirement aming a cohort born in 1958' by JD Carpentieri, Alissa Goodman, Samantha Parsons, Praveetha Patalay and Jon Swain. 
This report, supported by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), explores attitudes to, and plans, for retirement among a large cohort of British men and women born in 1958, with a particular focus on those who have experienced poverty during their working lives.

CLS contact

Alissa Goodman,

Director of CLS and Director and PI of the NCDS (1958 Cohort)

Alissa is the Director and Principal Investigator of the 1958 British Birth Cohort, known as the National Child Development Study (NCDS). Alissa is an economist whose main research interests relate to inequality, poverty, education policy, and the intergenerational transmission of health and well-being. Email Alissa