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Sloan Center News

Does Age Still Matter Today?

27 April 2009—The monthly unemployment statistics are among the most sobering indicators of the current economic downturn. Unemployment rates vary among different age groups, but one thing is true overall—age matters.

For example, the unemployment rate among individuals aged 25-34 jumped from 5.7% in 2008 (March) to 10.0% in 2009. Among those aged 55 to 64, the unemployment rate rose from 3.3% to 6.7% (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2009). However, studies indicate that (on average) it takes longer for older workers to find a new job (often with less compensation) than it does for younger workers.

How might age matter for those employees who are able to remain in the labor force? Is age related to the way that workers view their employment experiences?

The Age & Generations Study recently conducted by the Sloan Center on Aging & Work found that there are variations in the ways that employees experience their jobs. For instance, we found that the odds of employees reporting that they have access to the flexibility they need to manage their work and family lives were 74% greater for employees age 27 to 35 than for those age 53 or older. This is an important finding, as we also found that employees who have the flexibility they need were more likely to have higher engagement scores than employees who do not have the flexibility they need.

Workplace Flexibility: Findings from the Age & Generations Study

Today's economic downturn has motivated some employers to re-assess what steps they might take to enhance the effectiveness of the supports they offer to employees. However, in today's topsy turvey world, it is important for employers to remember that the impact of age might not be as simple as employees's year of birth. Other age-related factors, such as career-stage, job tenure, or dependent care status can have a significant impact on work experiences. For example, those in mid-career or late-career were less likely to perceive their supervsiors as supportive (on average) than early-career employees. And yet the span of ages within different career-stages was quite large, with those in early-career ranging from age 17 to 61 years; mid-career, from 22 to 62 years; and late-career, from 28 to 81 years. At the workplace, age-related factors can interact with one another - sometimes in surprising ways.

Age & Generations: Understanding Experiences at the Workplace

At the Sloan Center on Aging & Work, we feel that is important to consider how age might matter at the workplace ... but it also matters how we think about age.

We are always interested in your comments, suggestions, and observations. Please don’t hesitate to email me directly at

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