1 in 5 Older Workers Report Age Discrimination

olderworkersTwenty percent of workers aged 50 or older say they have personally experienced age discrimination in the workplace since turning age 50.

This is a finding from a national survey of 1,024 adults aged 50 and over by the Associated Press NORC Center for Public Affairs.

The problem is more acute for non-whites. Twenty-eight percent of non-whites who are aged 50 or older say they have personally experienced prejudice or discrimination in the job market due to their age compared to 17 percent of whites.

Types of discrimination suffered by workers include being passed over for a raise, promotion or chance to get ahead, receiving unwanted assignments or being denied access to training or the opportunity to acquire new skills because of their age.  Thirteen percent of those surveyed said they heard unwelcome comments about their age in the workplace.

And that’s older Americans who are working!


Other research shows that older Americans who lose their jobs descend into a black pit of unemployment that many cannot escape.  The share of workers who’ve been unemployed for more than six months was 37.9 percent in August 2013. But for those 55 and older, nearly one in two (47 percent) were out of work for  six months or more.

Hundreds of thousands of older Americans have been forced to retire as soon as they can claim Social Security retirement benefits  – when they reach the age of 62 –to survive economically. Those who retire at age 62 receive a 25% cut in benefits for the rest of their lives.

The AP survey found that more than a third (33%) of Americans who are retired said they did not feel they had a choice except to retire.  Fifty-four percent of retirees under age 65 felt they had no choice but to retire compared with 23 percent of retirees 65 or over.

It is unclear why so many older Americans are suffering from what appears to be unprecedented rates of discrimination and joblessness. One reason could be that employers know that they likely will not be held accountable for age discrimination.

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a devastating decision,  Gross v. FBL Financial Services, in 2009 that eviscerated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1964 by establishing a much higher standard of proof for victims of age discrimination than exists for victims of race of sex discrimination.  The U.S. Congress could have “fixed” the damage but has not acted.  In addition, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed only a fraction of lawsuits in recent years against employers compared to the past.

Other findings

Other findings from the AP survey indicate that former notions of “retirement” as an end to one’ s work life are dead or dying:

  • Before the Great Recession, the retirement average age was 57, while the average for those who retired afterwards is 62.
  • Among those who are working and not yet retired, 47 percent say it is very likely that they will do some work for pay during their retirement and another 35 percent say it is somewhat likely.
  • Twenty-two percent of adults age 50 years and older have searched for a job in the last five years. Of these, 55 percent found the job search to be moderately or very difficult.
  • About a quarter (24%)  of Americans aged 50 and older report having less than $10,000 in retirement savings and  investments. Thirty-nine percent of all people ages 50 and older report having less than $100,000 tucked away for retirement, not including pensions or the value of primary residences.

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