Summary of Age Discrimination and Hiring of Older Workers

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Recommendation

Projections call for the percentage of Americans aged 65 and older to increase from 19% of the working-age population in 2017 to 29% by 2060. This demographic bulge will put enormous strain on Social Security by raising the proportion of nonworkers in the population. An astute analysis from economists David Neumark, Ian Burn and Patrick Button reveals that, despite government efforts to keep older people in the labor pool, discriminatory hiring practices may force them to retire. getAbstract recommends this important and accessible study to economists, employers and social scientists interested in the effects of age bias on older populations.

In this summary, you will learn

  • Why reforms aimed at encouraging employment among those aged 65 and older may be backfiring,
  • How age discrimination makes it difficult for older people to get jobs, and
  • What research reveals about ageism in America.
 

About the Authors

David Neumark is an economics professor at the University of California, Irvine, where Ian Burn is a doctoral student in economics. Patrick Button is a Tulane University assistant professor of economics.

 

Summary

An aging population in the United States is almost certain to test the viability of programs such as Social Security in the coming years. Some efforts toward policy reform – such as raising the age to access full retirement benefits and reducing taxes on earnings for workers who claim benefits – have focused on increasing employment among older Americans. However, this goal will be difficult to achieve if age discrimination by employers curtails hiring. Without part-time or “bridge” jobs to carry them to retirement, seniors will be unable to reduce the burden on government programs through continued work. To measure age discrimination in hiring, researchers created fake résumés for an experiment. They applied for 13,000 jobs in 11 states by sending three identical résumés to each employer: one from a young worker another from a middle-aged candidate and a third from an older job applicant. The experiment focused on five types of applications: men applying for jobs as janitors, security guards or retail sales clerks, and women applying for positions in retail sales or as administrative assistants.


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