NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Is It Harder for Older Workers to Find Jobs? New and Improved Evidence from a Field Experiment

David Neumark, Ian Burn, Patrick Button

NBER Working Paper No. 21669
Issued in October 2015, Revised in November 2017
NBER Program(s):Aging, Law and Economics, Labor Studies, Public Economics

We design and implement a large-scale field experiment – a resume correspondence study – to address a number of potential limitations of existing field experiments testing for age discrimination, which may bias their results. One limitation that may bias these studies towards finding discrimination is the practice of giving older and younger applicants similar experience in the job to which they are applying, making them “otherwise comparable.” The second limitation arises because greater unobserved differences in human capital investment of older applicants may bias existing field experiments against finding age discrimination. We also study ages closer to retirement than in past studies, and use a richer set of job profiles for older workers to test for differences associated with transitions to less demanding jobs (“bridge jobs”) at older ages. Based on evidence from over 40,000 job applications, we find robust evidence of age discrimination in hiring against older women, especially those near retirement age. But we find that there is considerably less evidence of age discrimination against men after correcting for the potential biases this study addresses.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w21669

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