Should I Stay or Should I Go Now? Voluntary Retirement from Danish Local Government



This article is corrected by:

  1. Errata: Erratum Volume 34, Issue 1, 98–99, Article first published online: 11 February 2011

Lene Holm Pedersen, AKF, Danish Institute of Governmental Research, Nyropsgade 37, 2, DK-1602 Copenhagen V, Denmark. E-mail:


Why do politicians choose to retire voluntarily from a position they have been working hard to get? It is argued in this article that the institutional setting of the elected assemblies influences the direct, as well as the alternative costs and benefits of having a political career and hence the patterns of voluntary retirement. Drawing on previous research from the United States Congress, this is explored in a new empirical setting: local government in Denmark. The results show that positions at the labour market matter as private-sector employees are more likely to retire than public-sector employees. Furthermore, internal institutional factors matter. Holding an institutional position such as chairing a committee makes retirement less likely. Furthermore, seniority makes the councillors more likely to retire when age is controlled for – a result not found in national studies. However, councillors who reach a high-ranking position at an early stage are not more likely to quit with seniority than those who do not reach such a position. A high personal share of votes decreases voluntary retirement. In contrast to previous findings, the ideological distance from the ruling party does not play a role. This may be due to norms of consensus in the local councils.