Age Discrimination Affects Women More

Some people might plan to work well into their 60s if they can’t afford to retire, or if they just think they’ll be around a long time. But this strategy is more difficult for women to execute than for men.

A study of employer discrimination in hiring found “strong and robust” evidence that female job applicants in their mid-60s were much less likely to be called in for interviews for low-skill jobs than were younger women. Evidence of age discrimination among older men was more mixed, or even non-existent in one occupation.

“It seems there was age discrimination for women – no matter what,” said Patrick Button, an economist at Tulane University.

To conduct their meticulously designed study, the researchers sent out more than 40,000 mock applications for jobs advertised online in 12 cities. The “applicants” fell into three age groups – 29-31, 49-51, and 64-66 – and submitted resumés in four job categories: retail sales, office administration, security guard, and janitor.

The results confirmed age discrimination, showing a clear decline in callback rates in three of the four occupations – administration, sales, and security – as the workers progressed from their late 20s and early 30s into their mid-60s.

But something else emerged when they separated the men and women: discrimination against the women in their 60s was more pronounced.

Take sales, the only occupation analyzed in which the mock applications were submitted for both men and women. These positions ranged from clerks to managers. The researchers found that the “gap” in callbacks – more interview requests for applicants ages 29-31 than applicants in their mid-60s – was two times larger for women than for men. This occurred even though there was a clear preference for saleswomen over salesmen when they were young adults.

Administration, the only predominantly female job category included in the study, also revealed discrimination in positions such as receptionist and office manager. The older women were much less likely to be called for interviews.

But there was little evidence of age discrimination in one predominantly-male job category: security guard, a position ranging from entry-level to director. And the results for the other male position – janitor – depended mostly on the worker’s level of experience and not so much age.

The findings from this study hold implications for older workers, and particularly women, seeking a change in their full-time job or planning to ease into being fully retired by taking a part-time job.

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