Study Finds Age Discrimination is Particularly Bad for Women


Illegal age discrimination in hiring is rampant and is particularly bad for older women.

These conclusions were reached in a study released Monday by three economists – David Neumark and Ian Burn of the University of California at Irvine and Patrick Button of Tulane University.

The researchers sent out fictional resumes in response to 40,000 job ads and found that callbacks were much higher for younger groups no matter what kind of job was being advertised. But older women had the fewest call backs. The study looked at a dozen cities, including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Boston. Here are some of the study findings:

  • “First, for the one occupation where we study both men and women – sales – we find considerably stronger evidence of discrimination against older women than older men; indeed if one emphasizes the evidence from the unobservables correction, there is evidence of age discrimination only for women. “
  • “ … more generally across the many analyses we present, the evidence of age discrimination against older women is strong and robust, while the evidence for older men is less clear.”
  • “We only consistently find evidence of age discrimination for one of three occupations in which we study men (security), and in this case the evidence is not statistically strong.”

The higher rate of age discrimination for women may be the combination of age and sex discrimination, plus the impact of physical appearance.

I have noted in earlier blog posts that older women face unique struggles in the workplace. They report the highest level of bullying, suffer the highest wage gap, and  employers stop investing in their careers a decade earlier than men. Despite this, scant attention has been paid to the plight of older women in the workforce. Indeed, lawmakers, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the U.S. Department of Labor generally ignore the problem of age discrimination in the workplace.  Perhaps because it is a particularly difficult problem for women?

The study is entitled, Is It Harder for Older Workers to Find Jobs? New and Improved Evidence from a Field Experiment.

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