Discrimination and Other Obstacles Older Workers Face Highlighted in New Survey

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The findings come as more Americans are working longer into old age.

Most Americans who are 50 and older say their age puts them at a disadvantage when looking for work and contributes to discrimination on the job, according to new survey results.

These findings come as the share of people who are staying in the workforce into older age has been on the rise.

Three quarters of respondents 50 or older to the 2019 Working Longer Survey, which was conducted by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, said their age puts them at a disadvantage when seeking work.

Just over half of all survey respondents said that older workers always or often face age-based discrimination in the workplace, while 58 percent of those age 50 or older say the same.

“As more and more workers in the United States continue to put off retiring past the traditional age of 65, they report feeling the consequences of age bias in both their current positions and as they look for jobs,” said Trevor Tompson, director of The AP-NORC Center.

A report on the survey notes that between 1970 and the early 2000s workers who were 55 and older made up the smallest age group within the labor force. But by 2005, the share of older Americans who were working had surpassed the proportion of those 16 to 24.

This trend more or less continued in the years that followed, through at least 2015, when those 55 and up occupied 22% of the labor force, compared to 12% in 1990.

Some of the factors driving Americans to work for more years, compared to past generations, include longer life expectancies, shortfalls in retirement savings and higher education levels.

The baby-boom generation, which is now around retirement age, is also relatively large.

Women in particular viewed their age as a disadvantage in the workforce, according to the survey. Seventy-nine percent of women age 50 and older, compared to 70 percent of men in that age group, said that their age poses difficulties when searching for a job.

The polling results about discrimination and other obstacles older Americans can face in the labor market stand in contrast to other findings.

Forty five percent of Americans say the trend of working longer is beneficial to the national economy, and 39 percent say it’s good for workers in general, Tompson noted.

The nationwide survey of 1,423 adults was conducted in February using online and phone interviews. The margin of sampling error for the overall survey is +/- 3.7 percentage points. For the 927 interviews with adults age 50 and older it is +/- 4.1 percentage points.

A full copy of the report about the results can be found here.

Bill Lucia is a Senior Reporter for Route Fifty and is based in Olympia, Washington.

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