By Chris Adams

More and more Americans are working into their 60s and beyond, whether out of need, a desire to stay engaged or general satisfaction.

Other older Americans want to do the same but hit a wall in the form of discriminatory hiring practices by employers.

“You can have policies to get older workers to work all you want, but if there are barriers because of age discrimination, those policies don’t work,” said David Neumark (research, Twitter), chancellor’s professor of economics at the University of California, Irvine.

Neumark studies ways to measure labor market discrimination and discussed his methods of using matched pairs of resumes to test if employers were shying away from older workers merely because of their age.

In a session with National Press Foundation fellows, Neumark described his research, which creates fictitious-but-realistic job applications, some of older people, some of younger ones. The applications are identical except for graduation dates. Those applications are sent to actual job openings, and researchers track the number of times the “young” and “old” applicants are granted an interview. Whether looking at clerical, sales, security or custodial jobs, older applicants had lower callback rates.

“The evidence for women is really clear – older women have a really tough time,” he said. There is some evidence of age discrimination for men in sales, and for janitor and security jobs.

He also described the legal landscape, including age discrimination laws at the federal and state level. He said those laws have probably helped reduce age discrimination, mainly because of reduced terminations. But discrimination laws have likely been less effective at increasing hiring; there is little – and conflicting – evidence on whether age discrimination laws increase the hiring of older workers.