Ageism for the Over-50 Crowd Means Longer Layoffs, Less Pay: Study

A new study shows that those over the age of 50 often don’t leave their jobs voluntarily, and the chances of earning a similar salary in a new job are next to impossible.

ProPublica and Washington-based think tank Urban Institute analyzed data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), which has been tracking Americans over the age of 50 since 1992. Its sample dataset has tracked roughly 20,000 people.

Its findings are startling. All told, it sees a trend where older workers are forced out of higher-paying jobs they’ve earned, and face continued employment disruptions thereafter. From ProPublica:

Through 2016, our analysis found that between the time older workers enter the study and when they leave paid employment, 56 percent are laid off at least once or leave jobs under such financially damaging circumstances that it’s likely they were pushed out rather than choosing to go voluntarily.

Further analysis shows only ten percent will ever earn as much as they did before being pushed out of that first high-paying job (which is after 50, so that lucrative post could have been years in the making). As ProPublica writes: “Even years afterward, the household incomes of over half of those who experience such work disruptions remain substantially below those of workers who don’t.”

HRS is a survey of working professionals, which means it can only guess the cause of such turnover amongst older working professionals; but ProPublica does track reasons given by those surveyed for losing jobs.

Dice’s own report, the Diversity and Inclusion Survey, notes age-based discrimination (or at least the perception of ageism) is far and away the most recognized type of discrimination amongst tech pros. Some 29 percent of respondents to our study say they’ve experienced or witnesses ageism at work.

It’s interesting how these two studies dovetail into one another. Our study shows tech pros in their late 40s are most concerned about job disruption or age-based discrimination; 80 percent fear attitudes about age will affect their career. HRS data shows those fears are realistic.

Sadly, the infatuation with youth hasn’t subsided. Facebook, gripped by scandals throughout 2018, was also hit with accusations that Facebook job ads allow for ageism: Recruiters and companies can target age-based demographics to avoid older professionals altogether.

HRS data also shows that those laid off or fired in their 50s are more prone to longer periods of unemployment, and take less lucrative roles just to get back into the workforce. Furthermore, it shows one-third of older professionals experience two or more job changes after 50. “Older workers don’t lose their jobs any more frequently than younger ones,” Princeton labor economist Henry Farber told ProPublica, “but when they do, they’re substantially less likely to be re-employed.”

24 Responses to “Ageism for the Over-50 Crowd Means Longer Layoffs, Less Pay: Study”

  1. As I fold clothes in warehouse in Columbus Ohio this is so true and on point in this market. I could list dates, companies that have done this to people who years of excellent service and all of a sudden they couldn’t do anything right. So, yes in Columbus ageism is alive and ok’d openly. All the while they continue to claim low unemployment can’t find qualified workers overlooking older ones. Cpa/MBA-Black, 50+ and out of the professional workforce for the third time in two years.

  2. James McDonald

    This couldn’t be more true. After being laid off from one company in my 50’s due to age exclusively I got lucky and was re-hired within 3 months in the 2008; 2009 economic slump but took a 27 thousand dollar pay cut. It took 9 years to get back to my previous salary at my new employer. The owner sold the company over a year and a half ago but did see that his employees were well taken care of. However, now that I’m in my 60’s it’s almost a joke if I get an interview. Kids interviewing me with less experience than I. I have no problems with a younger manager but to have them turn there back on decades of experience, some in high profile positions is ludicrous. The millennial’s are not the answer. It’s a well balanced work force.

  3. That is certainly what I’m experiencing. I was laid off with a number of my younger colleagues and I know that several of them have gotten new jobs. I am contemplating whether I can live for 20+ years on what I now have in my 401K, and without full social security for another few years. I don’t think I can – I’ve run up debt for living expenses while unemployed.

  4. When I was young, I remember not understanding why older co-workers changed careers when we we’re laid off. Now I’m in the same boat. No responses to your resume when they see when you graduated from college and there’s 30 years of experience on your resume. You daily hear about lawsuits about sex and race discrimination, but never about age.

    • Take a look at the job ads you see on some company’s web sites or recruitment emails that show up in your inbox. I find that a surprising number of them make the standard claim about not discriminating on the basis of sex preference, gender, disability, veteran status, etc. , etc. but they leave out “age”. Sure, sometimes, I’m sure they are lumping that into the “any other protected status” verbiage but many don’t even include that blurb in their job ads. So do those that don’t mention it not believe age discrimination is OK? Simple oversight? (I’m not buying that one.) Regardless of the reason, company’s don’t seem to *behave* as though age discrimination is even a *thing* let alone a problem and the legal system seems to bend over backwards to let them get away with it.

    • The recommendation I got from an outplacement firm was to list your college and degree, but not include your graduation year to avoid ageism. Also, don’t list all 30 years of experience; just list the most recent 10 – 15 yrs.

  5. You know what bad? Is being laid off SIX TIMES since 2009, being forced into a divorce I didn’t want from the Ex because of economic reasons in 2012, yet I’m still raising my only two children under joint custody who still go to grade school, losing your house, stuck in small apartment with them, using up all of your equity and having to be FORCED to withdrawal from your ROTH IRA many times over two years because you have ZERO income (exhausted unemployment benes many times), all because I cannot LAND the IT sales position that I had great success with I the past because I’m in my late 50s.. I have applied to thousands of positions over the last five years. In 2016, I had major company reach out to me for position of which I was clearly overqualified. Of course I took the job and within two months, I was promoted. I was at 120% of quota and doing well..Eight months later because of an FTC ruling and merger, I’m laid off in mid summer 2017. I watched my coworkers all four of them land a new position at new company that I interviewed with also, they all got hired in October of 2017, but the new Director wouldn’t hire me……why because I’m over 55+, my former coworkers kept asking me to apply, and apply again, I did, but the Dir of Inside Sales wouldn’t bring me on board. He was younger than me. For the last five months, I have had some interviews but I get the same results, OVERQUALIFIED for the job response, my car has now over 197,000 miles and its a right now2002 and getting problems, my rent has gone up every year and cant leave for better place because I have no job, I’m on foodstamps and have used my ROTH IRA for fifth month in row in 2018. All this l because I cant get the job that 8 to 5 monday thru friday and has decent pay so I can support my kids. My Ex is also having similar problems as prior tech writer. I have college degree, I’m born and raised this large city, I keep up with whats happening in the tech world better than most but yet cant land. My Resume looks like swiss cheese lots of holes because of layoffs, yet I have many yearswhere I was with someone for 10 years. What am I supposed to do? I cant take certain jobs because of the hours, and if do take low end jobs, they label me over qualified for the job…..do I have to stand out in the middle of FREEWAY to get someone attention about giving a real JOB.to survive…. . .

  6. Lynne M.

    I have to wonder what will happen with all the millennials and younger when they (gasp!) age. There seems to be this idea that it won’t happen to them because they’ll be so rich from their tech jobs that they retire and, if they feel like working, go into business for themselves by 40. What younger people don’t seem to realize is there’s only one true part to that story – people over 40 are often self-employed because it becomes increasingly difficult to get hired somewhere. These “hire young because they’re natives in the latest tech” seem to believe that there’s some magic about knowing lots of social media and pay-to-win mobile games. While younger people can have fine ideas (just as can anyone), a lack of experience with everything from general IT and coding to good design shows. When workers buy into the digital native line, they don’t think about why companies want only younger workers – lower pay, forced long hours, less use of benefits, and not actually caring about skills.

    While I’m ranting, what I always love, too, are the business articles about how terrible it is that Boomers and Gen X aren’t saving for retirement, as if the only reason is that they can’t stop spending on luxuries. Try having a series of firings or layoffs (where no reason is given – I know one person where the company said “We aren’t allowed to say why”) that are sudden, so no time to save for it, and then have a 3-6 month downtime finding a job.

    If you look at most articles, the problems are that the olds don’t keep up their skills (those skills have atrophied at a contented-cow job) and that these same doofuses don’t save for rainy days and retirements. Even advertising and many serious articles take the view that anyone old enough to have grown children is an obsolete idiot. How many times have you read an article that basically says the skills of anyone over 50 are dull because their brains and reflexes are aging? So many myths about how people age and how they can work because of it. There’s some sick psychology happening where people can get upset about racism or sexism, which may not apply to them ever, but view agism (which will happen to them) as rational and smart.

  7. Stephen Wilson

    I agree with your comments on ageism, but if you think it’s tough finding a job in your fifties, wait until you hit sixty! I have 20 years experience in electrical engineering (digital communications) and another 20 as a certified project manager. I have done everything there is to do in IT. I have applied to hundreds of jobs. The first question is, “When did you graduate?” Even HR people can do the math and figure out that I started working before they were born. I was invited to interview in Dallas, so I drove 5 hours to get there and walked into the room and instantly knew the interview was over, due to my age. I don’t understand why they want to hire kids with no experience and risk major project failure over hiring someone mature who has over 30 or 40 years of experience. Don’t they understand that we don’t want their jobs? We are not a threat to them. I just don’t get it.

    • Stephen, I hear you. There’s few things more devastating than walking into a hard-won interview and seeing the look of disappointment on the interviewer’s face. I know I am more than qualified, but the young person gets the job. When we Boomers all retire within the same decade or so, there is going to be a huge skilled labor vacuum. They better learn from us now.

  8. Agree with the article and several of the follow on comments. The current hiring crowd – both resource providers as well as Company HR – let their ATS do all the “work” for them. Have been told to “dumb down” CV because you will intimidate both HR and Hiring Managers – their first reaction is to think we want their jobs. Nothing could be further from the truth – we can make meaningful contributions and bring significant “lessons learned” which are of value to organizations because majority of both current and next generation of leadership possess no “hands on” or “leadership/people communication skills” – they all hide behind texting or emails. The worst impact imposed on Industries was the pushing of MBA types that only are driven by greed and are classed by many large consulting companies as “experts” but in reality have zero skill sets.

  9. Eddie Artist

    After being sacrificed for a second time in favor of younger, cheaper, less talented staffers, I now believe that the most realistic solution is re-education and entrepreneurship. Most workers over 50 have enough practical “know-how” to produce deliverables but have no “business training”. After training my new supervisor I had to overlook the realization that I knew more than my “bosses”. Do we really need bosses or are we just not business-savvy? Unfortunately, I had the “experience but no Business Degree”, according to those in hiring authority. And most of us have been programmed from birth to believe that a “real job” means working for some else.

  10. Although I can’t disagree with most of the comments, It is not always that way
    18 months ago I was hired as a project manager/scrum master at a leading fintech company & I was 65 years old
    Just make sure you drop that persecution attitude when the interview starts

  11. I’m a Tech Professional in my 50’s. Very difficult to land a job. Have kept my skills current by accepting a PT position. Age Discrimination is a FACT which is hard to prove in court. Employers prefer a much younger workforce. For the last 6 months I have been sending resumes, interviewing and not a single FT offer. I’m currently living off Unemployment and the little bit of savings I have left. Regardless of Race or Gender, we 40+ really need to stick together and embrace each other. At the end of the day, the bank wants it’s money.

  12. Alas I have to agree with the article and the many who have left comments. I recently experienced this aspect of employment in the tech world. I am BLESSED…as I still have a job (at a very large tech employee…but one who often uses “resource actions” to thin the herd…my number WILL come up someday). I had found a PM position being offered at a company I used to have a very close working relationship with. In fact I was the very first person in the country to be professionally certified on their software suite. I matched the qualifications on the PM job listing EXACTLY…up and down the list. After applying in early Oct last year I waited and continued to check on the job posting…the position remained open…finally two days after Christmas I received the “Thank you for your interest, but we have decided…etc, etc”, response. This more than anything has truly shown me that once my time at my current position is over…my work in the IT sector is over. I am electing to pursue a business startup in something (almost) completely different. Whether or not that can ever replace my current income remains to be seen…but I look forward to the adventure..

    • Vladimir

      I found that Companies I worked before were more interested in what can I do for them than my age.I’m in my 70s. Last my job I’ve got 5 years ago. I solved quite a few high tech problems, where previous engineers in this position failed. I’ve got promotion,two level higher position and salary increase. I enjoy my work.

  13. I agree with all comments. It’s really sad to see so many incompetent 40 year olds (and younger) in management and Sr. management positions making mistakes, but in environments that overlook their incompetence and lack of emotional intelligence. Most people are placed in positions as a result of “Who” they know not What they know. Also, millennials and other unqualified “leaders” are completely intimidated and afraid of being found out (the imposter syndrome) or being replaced by mature professionals with the experience and education to move business objectives forward, so they typically hire and surround themselves with friends and acquaintances in the work place and reward those people with salaries, opportunities, and job security in exchange for their loyalty and “support”

    • “they typically hire and surround themselves with friends and acquaintances”

      I cringe when a company tries to show what a great environment they have to work in by peppering their web site with photos of smiling, happy employees—none of which seem to be older than 30-35. It makes you wonder if they’d even consider interviewing someone with more than, say, 10 years on their resume.

  14. Something needs to be done with the online application process. One can post a resume without dates (I have been listing for example, “5 years”, “10 years”, instead of specific dates) but always at the end there is an “application” which cannot be filled-out without posting specific dates of employment and dates of high school and college graduation. Before online applications, this “application” was filled-out once you were hired for job. One could obtain an interview by only sending a cover letter and resume. I am convinced they weed-out older applicants with this attached “application” which forces one to fill in specific dates. I have never received a callback with these “online” applications and I believe it is due to ageism. “Ageism” should be addressed in the application process and the need to fill-out an application with dates should be eliminated until AFTER one is considered for the position. They cannot ask your “race” so they should not be able to ascertain your age by calculating it according to high school and college graduation dates and dates of employment. I KNOW they do this. It is purposeful so they can age discriminate in a “round-about way”.

    • You are exactly right. Companies are legally not allowed to ask you directly what your age is. But the loop hole they use is asking you what year you graduated, they make that a required field in the on-line application, and then they do the math to figure out how old you are. I have debated whether to put “9999” in the graduation year as a way to get past that required field without putting in my true graduation date.

  15. John Michael

    I was laid off from Motorola the week I turned 50 years old, then was able to get a better paying job at another big company, was laid off from there during a merger, then finally got a job at another tech company who laid me off in 2018 because my “position was eliminated” – they re-posted the job a month later. I took my college graduation dates out of my resume and the first question that recruiters ask me is “oh, when did you get your MBA?” They don’t care – it’s just one more way for recruiters to find out how old you are.