Estimating Worklife Expectancy

Worklife expectancy describes the probability an individual will be participating in the competitive labor market and the probability he or she will be employed if participating in the labor market. The sum of these joint probabilities represents the statistically projected number of years of employment, including expected gaps in employment, over the individual’s remaining life expectancy. Worklife expectancy, then, provides valuable information regarding wage loss, if any, as a result of prematurely exiting the competitive labor market as a result of injuries sustained.

While the concept of worklife expectancy is not new to the field of forensic vocational rehabilitation, there has recently been increased attention to the topic in both academic publications and case law. For example, a presentation recently given by D.S. Gibson discussed research regarding worklife expectancy whereby the extent to which a disability* diminished worklife expectancy was mitigated by increased educational attainment, such that severe disabilities consistently reduce worklife expectancy by 70% to 80% for high school graduates but only 50% for those with baccalaureate or higher degrees. However, and not surprisingly, total dollar loss as a result of diminished worklife expectancy increases with each level of education. As such, estimating worklife expectancy and wage loss as a result of decreased worklife expectancy is not an exact science, and data relating to the determination of diminished worklife expectancy should be used as a framework for understanding the issue, not for pigeonholing a particular individual.

At Stokes & Associates, Inc., we are committed to remaining up-to-date on the latest research relating to the issues that arise in our work, but our experts approach each case by considering the specific functional disability, and the effect of that disability on the individual given his or her age, gender, level of education, prior work history, and vocational profile. Based on this information, we are able to formulate an opinion on whether it is more probable than not that the individual will experience a loss of worklife expectancy, though we typically defer to a forensic economist to determine the number of years of such a loss, if any.

We offer complimentary consultations concerning "hypothetical matters."

To strategize with one of our experts at Stokes & Associates, Inc. please call David Barrett at 504-454-5009, visit our website, or email

*Of note, in this research, “disability” was measured by relatively general questions relating to difficulty experienced as a result of a physical (mobility, hearing, or visual) or mental condition.