Over the Hill, Under Siege: Labor Force Graying, Labor Market Pushes, and Consequences for Life Chances

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5 Scopus citations


Interest in older workers has recently expanded due to concerns over labor force "graying." Research and policy on aging adults' labor market participation have, thus far, framed the decision to labor as one shaped solely by the desires and capacities of older workers themselves. This perspective fails to recognize how multiple employer-side barriers play a large role in defining - and limiting - available choices. In this review, I synthesize the multi-disciplinary literature on employer-side barriers to older workers' labor market participation. In particular, I identify and discuss individual-, meso-, and social structural-level barriers that uniquely affect this group, noting where gaps in understanding remain. I consider older workers primarily as a whole to demonstrate how age operates as a distinct, important identity; however, I also reflect on how age overlaps with both other identities and cohort membership. Next, I briefly consider the relationship between these employer-side barriers and aging adults' life chances, particularly in an era of austerity. Although I focus on the United States case, I also note key cross-national similarities and differences. Finally, reflecting upon the foregoing review, I suggest that a redirection of public policy is necessary to effectively respond to this contemporary demographic shift.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)814-827
Number of pages14
JournalSociology Compass
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2015
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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