If you feel like submitting your résumé for a job is the equivalent of sending it into a black hole, the problem might be with how old your résumé makes you look. And if you’re a woman, the problem is even worse, according to research published this week by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
To test for age discrimination in the job application process, researchers created fake résumés for people in different age groups. The fictitious applicants were millennials (ages 29 to 31), Gen Xers (49 to 51) and boomers (64 to 66). The researchers — David Neumark, Ian Burn and Patrick Button — then submitted the résumés to real job postings for relatively low-skilled work, such as administrative assistants, security guards and retail sales. The fake résumés were submitted to 13,000 positions in 11 states.
Across the board, the younger applicants received more responses. For women, the difference was especially stark: Boomer female applicants for the administrative jobs had a 47 percent lower response rate compared with the millennial female applicants (7.6 percent versus 14.4 percent).
For men, the gender difference was smaller but still significant. The boomer male applicants for sales jobs had a 30 percent lower response rate compared with the millennial applicants (14.7 percent versus 20.89 percent).
The research did not reveal why women appear more likely to be victims of age discrimination than men. The authors suggest that it might be because looks matter, especially in the low-skilled jobs examined, and older women are more likely to be judged harshly on their looks than older men.
The authors also point out that policies lawmakers are considering to ease the strain on the Social Security system, such as increasing the retirement age, will be hampered if it’s hard for older workers to land jobs. “Already many women outlive their husbands and end up quite poor,” they conclude. Age discrimination — and fewer public benefit safety nets — can exacerbate that problem.