Over 50? Chances Are the Decision to Leave a Job Won’t be Yours

Last March, journalist Peter Gosselin teamed up with ProPublica on “Cutting ‘Old Heads’ at IBM,” an exposé of systematic age discrimination on the part of a company long revered by its employees. They’re at it again, this time in partnership with the Urban Institute, with a wrenching and deeply researched portrait of the labor landscape for older Americans.

Most don’t choose to retire, or get a gentle nudge. They get “the great big kick,” often again and again, with financial consequences that are often irreversible. Here’s a link to the research report, and just a few of the article’s eye-opening data points:

• Over half of workers over age 50 are laid off at least once or leave jobs under such financially damaging circumstances that it’s likely they were pushed out rather than choosing to go voluntarily.

• Only one in 10 ever again earns as much as they did before. 

• Include employees forced to leave their jobs for personal reasons, such as poor health or family trouble, and the share of Americans pushed out of regular work late in their careers rises to almost two-thirds. 

• More education provides little additional protection; 55 percent of those with college or graduate degrees experience similar job losses. •

• A larger share of older African-American and Hispanic workers than whites are forced out of work by poor health and family crises, possibly because they’re more likely to have jobs that take a bigger toll on health.

•  The federal goverment bars employers from putting age requirements in help-wanted ads, but as job searches have moved online, companies like Facebook have found other ways to target or exclude applicants by age. 

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