Employers’ age-related norms, stereotypes and ageist preferences in employment

J. Oude Mulders

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review


Social norms about the timing of retirement and stereotypes about qualities of younger and older workers are pervasive, but it is unclear how they relate to employers’ ageist preferences.
The purpose of this paper is to study the effects of employers’ retirement age norms and age-related stereotypes on their preferences for younger or older workers in three types of employment practices: hiring a new employee; offering training; and offering a permanent contract.
Survey data from 960 Dutch employers from 2017 are analysed to study employers’ preferences for younger or older workers. Effects of organisations’ and managers’ characteristics, retirement age norms and stereotypes are estimated with multinomial logistic regression analyses.
Many employers have a strong preference for younger workers, especially when hiring a new employee, while preferences for older workers are highly uncommon. Higher retirement age norms of employers are related to a lower preference for younger workers in all employment decisions. When employers are more positive about older workers’ soft qualities (such as reliability and social skills), but not about their hard qualities (such as their physical capacity and willingness to learn), they rate older workers relatively more favourable for hiring and offering training, but not for providing a permanent contract.
This is one of the first studies to estimate the effects of retirement age norms and age-related stereotypes on ageist preferences for a diverse set of employment practices.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)523-534
JournalInternational Journal of Manpower
Issue number5
Early online date27 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • ageism
  • social norms
  • older workers
  • younger workers
  • labour market


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