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Age Discrimination is Alive and Well

MusingsAge discrimination in the American workplace remains problematic for anyone over the age of 50. An ongoing study by Pro Publica and the Urban Institute, has followed since 1992 a nationally representative sample of about 20,000 people from the time they turn 50 through the rest of their lives. Through 2016, the study found that 56 percent of this sample were laid off at least once or left jobs under financially damaging circumstances. The analysis further showed that only 10 percent of these workers ever again earn as much as they did before their employment setbacks. Richard Johnson, an urban economist from the Urban Institute who worked on the study, concluded, “For the majority of older Americans, working after 50 is considerably riskier and more turbulent than we previously thought.”

There is strong evidence from the study that a majority of Americans over 50 with stable jobs are pushed out of work. The study showed that "28 percent of stable, longtime employees sustain at least one damaging layoff by their employers between turning 50 and leaving work for retirement... An additional 13 percent of workers who start their 50s in long-held positions unexpectedly retire under conditions that suggest they were forced out."

The bottom line: The data analysis conducted suggests "as many as 22 million of these people have or will suffer a layoff, forced retirement or other involuntary job separation. Of these, only a little over 2 million have recovered or will." In an excellent article on Pro Publica about age discrimination and the results of the study, Carl Van Horn, a Rutgers University professor and director of the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development, commented, “There’s no safe haven in today’s labor market. Even older workers who have held jobs with the same employer for decades may be laid off without warning.”

This is not the first time I have reported on age discrimination in this blog. The more I read about age discrimination, the more I wonder if it is representative of a broader societal attitude toward aging. Employers routinely discriminate against older employees, hiring younger (i.e. less expensive) employees to take their place -- making the federal age discrimination law nothing more than a paper tiger. It is true that a few companies boast hiring older employees, but it is comparatively only a handful. 

Are we really at the stage where people over 50 can be thrown out of the workforce simply because of their age? Apparently, the answer is yes. Imagine the experience and knowledge base that is being tossed out as well. It's a sad commentary with no end in sight.

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