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The Effects of Workforce-Shaping Tools on Retirement: The Case of the Department of Defense Civil Service

Asch, Beth J. PhD; Haider, Steven J. PhD; Zissimopoulos, Julie M. PhD

Journal of Public Health Management and Practice: November 2009 - Volume 15 - Issue 6 - p S64–S72
doi: 10.1097/PHH.0b013e3181b6107c

Apriority area for the public health workforce research agenda is the study of the public health labor market and how wages and benefits affect workforce outcomes, including recruiting, retention, and retirement. This study provides an example of such a study for the Department of Defense civil service workforce. We analyze the financial incentives to retire that are specifically embedded in the retirement system and how different workforce-shaping policies would affect these incentives. The study then uses a recently estimated model of the effects of financial incentives on retirement behavior among defense civilians to predict how these workforce-shaping tools would affect retirement behavior. We find that buyouts, retention incentives, and other workforce-shaping tools have a sizable effect on predicted retirement behavior and therefore, could be useful policies to help manage retirement outflows.

This article describes the effects of workforce-shaping tools on retirement in the Department of Defense Civil Service.

Senior Economist at the RAND Corporation, California, and Associate Director of the Forces and Resources Policy Center. Her research focuses on defense manpower and personnel, encompassing studies on recruitment, retention, compensation, retirement, and performance incentives of personnel in the US military and federal civil service. Recent research topics include minority recruitment, military retirement reform, and the supply of language capability within the intelligence community. (Asch)

Associate Professor in the Department of Economics at Michigan State University. His research focuses on topics related to labor markets, the elderly, and poverty. He has recently published papers on the preparedness of the elderly for retirement, the effects of school nutrition programs on children, lifecycle variation in the relationship between annual and lifetime earning, and numerous papers on welfare reform. (Haider)

Economist at the RAND Corporation, Professor of Economics at the Pardee RAND Graduate School, and Director of the Postdoctoral Training Program in the Study of Aging. Her research focuses on lifecycle behavior with regards to earnings, wealth and marriage and topics in the economics of aging including health and socioeconomic status, labor force behavior, and family transfers. (Zissimopoulos)

Corresponding Author: Beth J. Asch, PhD, RAND Corporation, 1776 Main St, Santa Monica, CA 90401 (

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect policies or positions of the RAND Corporation, Michigan State University, the Department of Defense, or the Social Security Administration.

This article is based on the research supported by the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and by the Social Security Administration through the Michigan Retirement Research Center. The authors can be reached at,, and, respectively. The study was approved by RAND's Human Subjects Protection Committee.

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.