De Economist

, Volume 162, Issue 4, pp 397–414 | Cite as

What Makes Older Job-Seekers Attractive to Employers?

  • Arjan Heyma
  • Siemen van der Werff
  • Aukje Nauta
  • Guurtje van Sloten


Using a conjoint analysis with an hypothetical hiring process, in which managers chose repeatedly between two hypothetical candidates for a relevant vacancy, our study confirms that hiring probabilities decline with age, particularly after the age of 58. Several theoretical arguments are given for this, both from the economic and psychological literature. Estimation results point at three important mechanisms that may explain declining hiring probabilities with age: (1) Uncertainty about productivity levels of older job-seekers may cause risk averse employers to chose younger job-seekers with lower, but more certain productivity levels. All factors and policy measures that are informative about productivity levels and reduce uncertainty for employers, also increase the average hiring probability for older job-seekers. (2) Increasing labour costs compared to steady or declining productivity levels of older workers. Some of these costs are determined on a national level, but many are negotiated between employers and employees in central bargaining agreements. Employers themselves therefore have an important key to increase the attractiveness of older job-seekers. (3) Older managers hire more older job-seekers, the same is true for employers with an older workforce. It means that in an ageing society, the hiring probability of older job-seekers will increase, even if no additional policy measures are taken. The effect of this ageing is stronger than any of the policy measures analysed in our study.


Older workers Ageing Labour demand Conjoint analysis 

JEL Classification

J14 J23 J18 


  1. Adams, S. J., & Heywood, J. S. (2007). The age of hiring and deferred compensation: Evidence from Australia. Economic Record, 83(261), 174–190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Altonji, J. G., & Blank, R. M. (1999). Race and gender in the labor market. Handbook of Labor Economics, 3, 3143–3259.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Arrow, K. J. (1973). The theory of discrimination. In O. Ashenfelter & A. Rees (Eds.), Discrimination in labor markets. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Bal, A. C., Reiss, A. E., Rudolph, C. W., & Baltes, B. B. (2011). Examining positive and negative perceptions of older workers: a meta-analysis. The Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 66(6), 687–698.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bech, M., & Gyrd-Hansen, D. (2005). Effects coding in discrete choice experiments. Health Economics, 14(10), 1079–1083.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Becker, G. S. (1957). The economics of discrimination. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  7. Biesma, R. G., Pavlova, M, Van Merode, G. G., & Groot, W. (2007). Using conjoint analysis to estimate employers preferences for key competencies of master level Dutch graduates entering the public health field. Economics of Education Review, 26(3), 375–386.Google Scholar
  8. Boockmann, B., Zwick, T., Ammermüller, A., & Maier, M. (2012). Do hiring subsidies reduce unemployment among older workers? Evidence from natural experiments. Journal of the European Economic Association, 10(4), 735–764.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Borjas, G. J., & Bronars, S. G. (1989). Consumer discrimination and self-employment. Journal of Political Economy, 97(3), 581–605.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Card, D., Kluve, J., & Weber, A. (2010). Active labour market policy evaluations: A meta-analysis. The Economic Journal, 120(548), F452–F477.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Carlsson, F., & Martinsson, P. (2003). Design techniques for stated preference methods in health economics. Health Economics, 12(4), 281–294.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Chiswick, B. R. (1973). Racial discrimination in the labor market: A test of alternative hypotheses. The Journal of Political Economy, 81(6), 1330–1352.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Chiu, W. C., Chan, A. W., Snape, E., & Redman, T. (2001). Age stereotypes and discriminatory attitudes towards older workers: An East-West comparison. Human Relations, 54(5), 629–661.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Coate, S., & Loury, G. (1993). Antidiscrimination enforcement and the problem of patronization. The American Economic Review, 83(2), 92–98.Google Scholar
  15. Daniel, K., & Heywood, J. S. (2007). The determinants of hiring older workers: UK evidence. Labour Economics, 14(1), 35–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. De Graaf-Zijl, M., Berkhout, P. H. G., Hop, J. P., & De Graaf, D. (2006). De onderkant van de arbeidsmarkt vanuit werkgeversperspectief, SEO-rapport 893. Amsterdam: SEO Economic Research. (in Dutch).Google Scholar
  17. De Koning, J., Gelderblom, A., Zandvliet, K., & Blanken, R. (2004). Werkt scholing voor werklozen?. Rotterdam: SEOR. (in Dutch).Google Scholar
  18. De Wolf, I., & Van der Velden, R. (2001). Selection processes for three types of academic jobs. An experiment among dutch employers of social sciences graduates. European Sociological Review, 17(3), 317–330.Google Scholar
  19. Eriksson, S., Johansson, P., & Langenskiöld, S. (2012). What is the right profile for getting a job? A stated choice experiment of the recruitment process, IFAU, Working Paper 2012:13, Uppsala.Google Scholar
  20. Fiske, S.T. & Neuberg, S.L. (1990). A continuum of impression formation, from category based to individuating processes: Influences and motivation on attention and interpretation. In: M. P. Zanna (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  21. García, M. F., Posthuma, R. A., & Colella, A. (2008). Fit perceptions in the employment interview: The role of similarity, liking, and expectations. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 81, 173–189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Garen, J., Berger, M., & Scott, F. (1996). Pensions, non-discrimination policies, and the employment of older workers. The Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance, 36(4), 417–429.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Gringart, E., Helmes, E., & Speelman, C. P. (2005). Exploring attitudes toward older workers among Australian employers: An empirical study. Journal of aging & social policy, 17(3), 85–103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Göbel, C., & Zwick, T. (2012). Age and productivity: Sector differences. De Economist, 160(16), 35–57.Google Scholar
  25. Heyma, A. (2004). A structural dynamic analysis of retirement behaviour in the Netherlands. Journal of Apllied Econometrics, 19, 739–759.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Heyma, A., Van der Werff, S., & Prins, J. (2009). Baten van baan-baanmobiliteit, SEO-rapport 2009–40. Amsterdam: SEO Economic Research. (in Dutch).Google Scholar
  27. Henkens, K. (2005). Stereotyping older workers and retirement: The managers’ point of view. Canadian Journal on Aging, 24(4), 353–366.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Heywood, J. S., Ho, L. S., & Wei, X. (1999). The determinants of hiring older workers: Evidence from Hong Kong. Industrial and Labor Relations Review, 52, 444–459.Google Scholar
  29. Heywood, J. S., Jirjahn, U., & Tsertsvardze, G. (2010). Hiring older workers and employing older workers: German evidence. Journal of Population Economics, 23(2), 595–615.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Hutchens, R. (1986). Delayed payment contracts and a firm’s propensity to hire older workers. Journal of Labor Economics, 4(4), 439–457.Google Scholar
  31. Hutchens, R. M. (1987). A test of Lazear’s theory of delayed payment contracts. Journal of Labor Economics, 5(4), S153–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Hutchens, R. (1988). Do job opportunities decline with age? Industrial and Labor Relations Review, 42(1), 89–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Ilmarinen, J., & Rantanen, J. (1999). Promotion of work ability during ageing. American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 36(S1), 21–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Ilmarinen, J. (2002). Physical requirements associated with the work of aging workers in the European Union. Experimental Aging Research, 28(1), 7–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Johnson, R. M., & Orme, B. K. (1996). How many questions should you ask in choice-based conjoint studies. Technical paper. Sequim: Sawtooth Software.Google Scholar
  36. Kahn, L. M. (1991). Discrimination in professional sports: A survey of the literature. Industrial and Labor Relations Review, 44(3), 395–418.Google Scholar
  37. Kanninen, B. J. (2002). Optimal design for multinomial choice experiments. Journal of Marketing Research, 39(2), 214–227.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Karpinska, K., Henkens, K., & Schippers, J. (2013). Hiring retirees: impact of age norms and stereotypes. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 28(7/8), 886–906.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Kidd, M. P., Metcalfe, R., & Sloane, P. J. (2012). The determinants of hiring older workers in Britain revisited: An analysis using WERS 2004. Applied Economics, 44(4), 527–536.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Koppes, L., de Vroome, E., Mol, M., Janssen, B., & Van Den Bossche, S. (2009). Nationale Enquête Arbeidsomstandigheden 2009. Hoofdforp: TNO. (in Dutch).Google Scholar
  41. Lazear, E. P. (1981). Agency, earnings profiles, productivity, and hours restrictions. The American Economic Review, 71(4), 606–620.Google Scholar
  42. Louviere, J. (2001). Choice experiments: an overview of concepts and issues. In J. Bennett en & R. Blamey (Eds.), The choice modelling approach to environmental evaluation. Cheltenham: Edward Elgat.Google Scholar
  43. Neumark, D. (1999). Wage differentials by race and sex: The roles of taste discrimination and labor market information. Industrial Relations: A Journal of Economy and Society, 38(3), 414–445.Google Scholar
  44. Oi, W. Y. (1961). Labor as a Quasi-fixed Factor of Production (Doctoral dissertation, University of Chicago, Department of Economics).Google Scholar
  45. Phelps, E. S. (1972). The statistical theory of racism and sexism. The American Economic Review, 62(4), 659–661.Google Scholar
  46. Picchio, M., & van Ours, J. C. (2013). Retaining through training even for older workers. Economics of Education Review, 32, 29–48.Google Scholar
  47. Posthuma, R. A., & Campion, M. A. (2009). Age stereotypes in the workplace: Common stereotypes, moderators, and future research directions\({\dagger }\). Journal of Management, 35(1), 158–188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Richardson, B., Webb, J., Webber, L., & Smith, K. (2013). Age discrimination in the evaluation of job applicants. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 43(1), 35–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Ryan, M., & Gerard, K. (2003). Using discrete choice experiments to value health care programmes: Current practice and future research reflections. Applied Health Economics and Health Policy, 2(1), 55–64.Google Scholar
  50. Statistics Netherlands. (2012). Werkhervattingskansen na instroom in de WW. Leeftijd is niet het enige dat telt, Voorburg/Heerlen: Statistics Netherlands. (in Dutch).Google Scholar
  51. Van Beek, K. W., Koopmans, C. C., & van Praag, B. (1997). Shopping at the labour market: A real tale of fiction. European Economic Review, 41(2), 295–317.Google Scholar
  52. Van Dalen, H. P., Henkens, K., & Schippers, J. (2010a). How do employers cope with an ageing workforce? Views from employers and employees. Demographic Research, 22(32), 1015–1036.Google Scholar
  53. Van Dalen, H. P., Henkens, K., & Schippers, J. (2010b). Productivity of older workers: Perceptions of employers and employees. Population and Development Review, 36(2), 309–330.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Arjan Heyma
    • 1
  • Siemen van der Werff
    • 1
  • Aukje Nauta
    • 2
    • 3
  • Guurtje van Sloten
    • 3
  1. 1.SEO Economic ResearchAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  2. 2.University of AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Factor FiveCologneGermany

Personalised recommendations