Working past the age of 65 is a growing reality for many Americans, new data confirms.

A report from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that the percentage of people 65 and older in the labor force increased from 12.1 percent in 1990 to 16.1 percent in 2010. Of those, 44.3 percent worked full-time, year-round.

The research showed that the biggest change came among 65- to 69-year-olds, with 21.8 percent of that group working in 1990 and 30.8 percent working in 2010. Comparatively, there was only a 5 percentage point increase for 70- to 74-year-olds and a 1 percentage point increase for those 75 and older.

Women are driving the increase in senior workers, the report showed. While men 65 years and older experienced a 3.2 percentage point increase in labor force participation in the last 20 years, women saw increases of more than 4 percentage points.

"As with all age groups, the increase in labor force participation of women has been a driving factor for this overall trend," said Braedyn Kromer, an analyst in the Census Bureau's Labor Force Statistics Branch.

The report shows that overall, 21 states and the District of Columbia have a senior workforce participation rate significantly higher than the national average. The leader is Alaska, where more than 22 percent of the senior population works. West Virginia has the lowest percentage of those over 65 still heading to the office at 12.5 percent.

The study found that the percentage of working seniors varies from state to state for a number of reasons, including the age distribution within the over-65 population. A state's attractiveness to retirees, cost of living, and the desire and ability of older workers to participate in the labor force could also impact rates of working.

The research was based on the results of the American Community Survey, a nationwide study designed to provide communities with reliable and timely demographic, social, economic and housing data. It has an annual sample size of about 3.3 million addresses across the United States and Puerto Rico.

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