The New York Times just reported on a new study to be published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin which demonstrates the existence of “subtle bias older men and women may face in the work force.”

16528716_sThe article notes the difficulty of proving age discrimination (at least post-Gross vs. FBL Financial Services), but states that “There is little doubt that such discrimination exists. When an older man or woman is laid off, it typically takes two to six months longer to find a new job than it takes younger workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And the new job is likely to pay considerably less. During the recent recession, many unemployed older people told a similar story. They sent in their résumé and got called for an interview, but when they walked in, potential employers saw their white hair and that was it.”

The new study used actors to portray three virtually identical men (“Max”) but of different ages — 25, 45 and 75.  Each man described himself to the test subjects half of the time as either willing to share his wealth with relatives (“compliant”), and half of the time as feeling no such obligation (assertive”).  When asked to give an opinion of the men, “[f]or those who saw the 25- or 45-year-old Max, it made no difference whether he was compliant or assertive. But students who saw the 75-year-old actor gave the assertive Max a high negative rating.”

The author’s conclusion:  “It turns out that a young Max and a middle-aged Max can get away with saying things that an old Max cannot.”

Any comments?