Baseline Data for 1950s Cornell Occupational Retirement Study Available

ICPSR is pleased to announce the release of the baseline data for the Cornell Study of Occupational Retirement, 1952-58 (ICPSR 34918) through the National Archive of Computerized Data on Aging.  Originally conducted in the 1950s by principal investigators Gordon F. Streib, Wayne E. Thompson, Milton L. Barron, and Edward A. Suchman, all of Cornell University, the study aimed to collect and analyze information about the then-"well-defined" life transition from employment to retirement in America. Following the study's completion, its materials were stored in seven filing cabinets at the Newberry Library in Chicago and were given to ICPSR as a gift in the 1990s.

Image of the punched card reader purchased and repaired by ICPSR for the project
The punched card reader purchased and repaired by ICPSR.
Restoration of these data for public use has been an ongoing process for ICPSR's Acquisitions group. Because the data had not been analyzed since the 1960s, none of the information had been digitized before ICPSR received the study materials. Original data were stored on punched cards. Questionnaires and supplementary materials, such as participant medical records and reports, existed only in hard-copy form.  In order to restore the usability of the data, the punched cards were read by a punched card reader (purchased and repaired by ICPSR specifically for this project) and transferred to a contemporary statistical format, at which point the resulting data were cleaned and processed. The study's codebooks have since been digitized, and ICPSR continues to work with the remaining hard-copy materials in order to preserve and make them accessible to users.

Through its longitudinal design, the Cornell Study of Occupational Retirement provides a unique perspective on retirement in the 1950s. The data cover gender and health — aspects of retirement which were seldom considered at that time period — and their relationship with this life transition. Data recovery was funded by the National Institute on Aging (1 R03 AG04038). The baseline data have been approved for public use. The release of four additional data sets corresponding with the four follow-up waves of this study is expected before the end of 2013.

Access the study home page here.