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State age protection laws and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. (Lahey 2008)

Absence of conflict of interest.

Citation

Lahey, J. State age protection laws and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. (2008). The Journal of Law and Economics, 51(3), 433-460.

Highlights

  • The study examined the impact of enforcement of age discrimination laws on the employment and earnings of older male workers
  • The author used a nonexperimental regression model and data from the Current Population Survey to estimate the impact.
  • The study found that males older than 50 in states with age discrimination laws were 0.2 percentage points less likely to be hired compared with those in states without their own age discrimination laws.
  • The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is moderate because it was based on a well-implemented nonexperimental design. This means we are somewhat confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the state laws on age discrimination, but other factors might also have contributed.

Intervention Examined

Age Discrimination Employment Act (ADEA)

Features of the Intervention

The ADEA prohibits discrimination against older workers. An amendment to the act in 1978 included workers up to age 70, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) became responsible for enforcing the law in 1979. This study examines people living in states with age discrimination laws. These state laws give workers an extended period in which to file claims, allow workers to submit claims to state Fair Employment Practices offices rather than the EEOC, and can include smaller firms.

Features of the Study

The author used statistical models to compare hiring, separation, weeks worked, and earnings for older white men and younger white men in states with and without their own age discrimination laws. The study used Current Population Survey data on more than 400,000 observations from 1978 to 1991.

Findings

Employment

  • The study found that white males older than age 50 in states with age discrimination laws were significantly less likely to be hired, with a difference of 0.2 percentage points compared with those in states without their own age discrimination laws.

Earnings

  • The study found no statistically significant differences in earnings.

Considerations for Interpreting the Findings

The analyses focused on workers ages 50 and older, but the laws protected all people older than age 40 against age discrimination. Including those protected by the law in the comparison group might bias the results for workers ages 50 and older. There might also be differences in the labor markets, access to lawyers, or other features not accounted for between the states with their own age discrimination laws and those that were only subject to the ADEA.

Causal Evidence Rating

The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is moderate because it was based on a well-implemented nonexperimental design. This means we are somewhat confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the state laws on age discrimination, but other factors might also have contributed.

Reviewed by CLEAR

September 2019

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