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Age Discrimination Kept Workers From Getting Hired During the Pandemic, AARP Finds

Many job seekers were asked birth date or graduation date during hiring process

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​During the past two years, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed how — and if — many people work. Massive layoffs caused more than 20 million people to lose jobs in April 2020. The sudden shift to remote work forced millions to master videoconferencing for the first time. Now the Great Resignation is leading many people to switch jobs to get better salaries, benefits and personal satisfaction, even enticing many older adults to “unretire.”

One constant throughout the rapid change, however, has been the persistence of age discrimination. According to an AARP Research survey of 2,945 people age 50 and older, 91 percent of respondents said age discrimination against older workers is common in the workplace today.

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That discrimination has had an impact on older adults who are either looking for work or trying to succeed in their current jobs. Here are some of the key takeaways from the survey.

One in 6 adults said they weren’t hired for a job because of their age. 

Despite the demand for workers, 15 percent of those surveyed said their age prevented them from getting a job they applied for within the past two years. While it can be difficult to know how employers make their hiring decisions, other responses from the survey suggest that employers are gathering age-related information during the hiring process. Among those recent job seekers, 53 percent said an employer asked them to give their birth date during the application or interview process, and 47 percent were asked their graduation date.

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Victims of age bias often are told to express their concerns with their supervisors first. The survey responses suggest that many do not believe doing so would address their concerns.

Many people want stronger age discrimination laws. 

Nearly 9 in 10 adults age 50 and up said that older Americans should be protected from age discrimination. Roughly the same number (92 percent) said they support efforts to strengthen age discrimination laws.

The survey interviews were conducted online and by phone March 24–28, April 22–26 and May 19–23, 2022, among 2,945 U.S. adults age 50-plus including 1,340 who were either working or looking for work. The survey used the Foresight 50+ Omnibus by NORC at the University of Chicago to select participants. All data is weighted by age, sex, education, race/ethnicity, region and AARP membership.

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