State Age Protection Laws and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act
Some anti-discrimination laws have the perverse effect of harming the very class they were meant to protect. This paper provides evidence that age discrimination laws belong to this perverse class. Prior to the enforcement of the federal law, state laws had little effect on older workers, suggesting that firms either knew little about these laws or did not see them as a threat. After the enforcement of the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) in 1979, white male workers over the age of 50 in states with age discrimination laws worked between 1 and 1.5 fewer weeks per year than workers in states without laws. These men are also .3 percentage points more likely to be retired and .2 percentage points less likely to be hired. These findings suggest that in an anti-age discrimination environment, firms seek to avoid litigation through means not intended by the legislation -- by not employing older workers in the first place.
Published: Lahey, Joanna. “State Age Protection Laws and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.” Journal of Law and Economics 51, 3 (2008): 433-460.
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