Omid Nosrati

Federal Reserve study: With age comes discrimination

The federal government extended considerable protection to older Americans back in 1967 with the enactment of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, landmark legislation that expressly prohibits any form of discrimination against workers age 40 or older.

While we would like to believe that the practice of treating applicants or employees any less favorably on the basis of their age has disappeared over the ensuing decades thanks to the ADEA, the unfortunate reality is that age discrimination continues to be a very real problem 50 years later.

Those who have a hard time believing this should consider a study released by the San Francisco Federal Reserve earlier this month.

Back in 2015, researchers here created resumes for three classes of fictional low-skill job seekers based on age -- "young" applicants (29-31), "middle-aged" applicants (49-51) and "older" applicants (64 to 66). Over 40,000 of these resumes, all of which outlined an identical set of proficiencies, were then submitted for openings at more than 13,000 positions located in 12 cities in 11 different states.

Specifically, they submitted only men's resumes across all three age groups for security and janitorial work, only women's resumes across all three age groups for secretarial work, and resumes for both genders across all three age groups for retail work.

Shockingly, the researchers discovered that the callback rates for young and middle-aged applicants were higher than they were for older applicants in all five categories of applications, leading them to conclude that there were indeed distinct patterns "consistent with age discrimination in hiring."

Breaking the numbers down further, the data revealed that female applicants were far more likely to encounter age discrimination:

  • For the retail applications, there was a 36 percent difference in callback rates for younger female applicants versus older female applicants (the difference was 30 percent among the male applicants)
  • For the secretarial applications, there was a 47 percent difference in callback rates for younger female applicants versus older female applicants

As discouraging as the results of this study are, it's nevertheless important for those who believe that they have been victimized by age discrimination in any form to understand that they are protected under both state and federal law, and can seek justice for the harm endured.

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