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Using methodological triangulation the study examines reverse retirement in Italy, the United States and England to explore the salience of cultural and structural factors and to consider the extent to which returning to work is a constrained choice. Analysis of harmonised panel data (HRS, ELSA and SHARE) indicates that reverse retirement is most common in the United States and extremely rare in Italy. In the liberal economies of the United States and England, financial factors are key determinants, including retirement income, having more children, children under 30 and mortgage debt. However, a certain degree of advantage is a prerequisite for returning to work, including higher education, good health, younger age, and free from caring responsibilities – opportunity structures and capacity to work therefore remain barriers for some older groups. Despite international convergence in the policy landscape, “retirement” continues to hold different meanings in the three distinct national contexts with implications for later life working.
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