A new study corroborates Milvy’s suspicion that she might have been
a victim of age discrimination.
Older workers, particularly women, face an increasingly difficult
time getting jobs, according to a new report in Research from the
Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
In the largest study of its kind, three economists created about
40,000 fictitious applications and submitted them online for some
13,000 lower-skilled jobs as sales people, administrative
assistants, security guards and janitors.
The experiment uncovered “compelling evidence” that women experience
age discrimination in hiring, and the inequity intensifies with age.
The older the woman, the less likely she was to hear back from
potential employers, the study found.
For administrative assistant jobs, older women must apply to almost
twice as many jobs to get the same number of interviews, the study
found. Women between 64 and 66 years old were 47 percent less likely
to hear back from prospective employers than women between 29 and
In sales, the picture was only a bit sunnier: women ages 64 to 66
were 36 percent less likely to hear back than women ages 29 to 31.
Milvy spent a year unemployed and searching for work before landing
her current job as assistant to the CEO at the Commonwealth Club in
San Francisco. She has no way to know if her callback rate was lower
than younger applicants. But she does believe she was less likely to
be chosen for jobs after in-person interviews.
“What worries me is if we’re all living so much longer, how are we
going to survive?” Are we going to be on the streets?” asked Milvy,
who was not involved with the research.
Her questions echo those of the study’s authors.
By 2050, the U.S. Census Bureau expects the number of Americans age
65 and older to almost double from 2012, taxing the Social Security
retirement system and putting pressure on older workers to continue
“The government, broadly speaking, is encouraging older workers to
work longer, partly to reduce strain on Social Security,” said one
of the study authors, Patrick Button.
“Efforts to try to get older workers into the labor force are going
to be frustrated by discrimination,” he said in a phone interview.
Button is a professor at Tulane University in New Orleans.
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If policymakers want to keep older adults in the workforce longer,
they must begin to address labor-force discrimination, sociologist
Pamela Herd said in a phone interview. A professor of public affairs
at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, she was not involved in
the new study.
“We’re living longer; people need to work longer. That’s all well
and good, but if people are going to encounter discrimination we
have to at a minimum understand that they are likely to be
discriminated against,” she said.
“The first thing we need to get people to do is acknowledge it’s a
problem,” she said.
She believes men also are vulnerable to age discrimination. The data
on men in the new study hinted at possible age discrimination, but
it was murkier.
Button hopes the study will spark a dialogue about ways to keep
older people, especially women, in the workforce.
“We have to rethink policy and think about how we can support older
women,” he said.
Changes to state and federal anti-discrimination laws might counter
prejudice, as might tax incentives for firms that hire older
workers, he said.
“I think there need to be policy changes,” Milvy said, “but more
than that, there needs to be more awareness that when you reach 50,
you don’t need to be put out to pasture.”
SOURCE: http://bit.ly/2ng24nE Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco
Economic Letter, February 27, 2017.
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