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How Does Occupational Access for Older Workers Differ by Education?


  • Matthew S. Rutledge
  • Steven A. Sass
  • Jorge D. Ramos-Mercado


Changing jobs after age 50 has become increasingly common. To assess the employment opportunities available to these job-changers, this study examines how the range of occupations in which they find jobs narrows as they age and whether this pattern differs by socioeconomic status, using education as a proxy. The results indicate that workers in their early 50s who change jobs find employment in a reasonably similar set of occupations as do prime-age workers but that the opportunities increasingly narrow as they enter their late 50s and early 60s. These results vary by educational attainment. Interestingly, while job opportunities narrow as workers age, the number of opportunities available to older workers at any given age has improved significantly between the late 1990s and early 2010s – though the gains have gone primarily to better-educated older workers. Consistent with previous research, the study also finds: 1) employer policies that emphasize employee training, respect for seniority, and “hiring from within” create barriers to the hiring of older job-seekers; 2) older workers are less likely to be hired in jobs requiring strong cognitive skills; but 3) physical demands and adverse working conditions are not serious impediments.

Suggested Citation

  • Matthew S. Rutledge & Steven A. Sass & Jorge D. Ramos-Mercado, 2015. "How Does Occupational Access for Older Workers Differ by Education?," Working Papers, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College wp2015-20, Center for Retirement Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:crr:crrwps:wp2015-20

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Barry T. Hirsch & David A. Macpherson & Melissa A. Hardy, 2000. "Occupational Age Structure and Access for Older Workers," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 53(3), pages 401-418, April.
    2. Arthur B. Kennickell, 2009. "Ponds and streams: wealth and income in the U.S., 1989 to 2007," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2009-13, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    3. Barry T. Hirsch & Edward J. Schumacher, 2004. "Match Bias in Wage Gap Estimates Due to Earnings Imputation," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 22(3), pages 689-722, July.
    4. Neumark, David & Song, Joanne, 2013. "Do stronger age discrimination laws make Social Security reforms more effective?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 108(C), pages 1-16.
    5. Hutchens, Robert M., 1991. "Segregation curves, Lorenz curves, and inequality in the distribution of people across occupations," Mathematical Social Sciences, Elsevier, vol. 21(1), pages 31-51, February.
    6. Christopher R. Bollinger & Barry T. Hirsch, 2006. "Match Bias from Earnings Imputation in the Current Population Survey: The Case of Imperfect Matching," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(3), pages 483-520, July.
    7. Hutchens, Robert, 1986. "Delayed Payment Contracts and a Firm's Propensity to Hire Older Workers," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 4(4), pages 439-457, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. David Neumark & Ian Burn & Patrick Button & Nanneh Chehras, 2016. "Do State Laws Protecting Older Workers from Discrimination Reduce Age Discrimination in Hiring? Experimental (and Nonexperimental) Evidence," Working Papers wp349, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
    2. Allgood, Sam, 2020. "Age discrimination and academic labor markets," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 169(C), pages 70-78.
    3. Marco Angrisani & Michael D. Hurd & Erik Meijer & Andrew M. Parker & Susann Rohwedder, 2017. "Personality and Employment Transitions at Older Ages: Direct and Indirect Effects through Non-Monetary Job Characteristics," LABOUR, CEIS, vol. 31(2), pages 127-152, June.
    4. Ammar Farooq, 2016. "The U-shape of Over-education? Human Capital Dynamics & Occupational Mobility over the Lifecycle," 2016 Papers pfa484, Job Market Papers.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J62 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Job, Occupational and Intergenerational Mobility; Promotion
    • J23 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Demand
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J26 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Retirement; Retirement Policies

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