AARP study: Age discrimination costs economy billions a year

Age discrimination against people age 50 and older robbed the economy of $850 billion in 2018, according to a new AARP report.

Research shows that the 50-plus population contributed 40 percent of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product, or GDP, in 2018, creating 88.6 million jobs and generating $5.7 trillion in wages and salaries through jobs held directly or indirectly, according to information from the AARP and Economist Intelligence Unit.

But older workers would have contributed a massive $850 billion more in 2018 to the GDP if they could have remained in or reentered the labor force, switched jobs or been promoted internally, according to the study.

In other words, the elimination of that bias in 2018 would have increased the contribution of the 50-plus cohort to the GDP from $8.3 trillion to $9.2 trillion, according to the study. The research also projects that the potential contribution of the older population could increase by $3.9 trillion in a no-age bias economy, which would mean a total contribution of $32.1 trillion to GDP in 2050.

“This important report shows the cost to the entire economy of discriminating against older workers,” said Debra Whitman, AARP’s executive vice president and chief public policy officer. “The economy in 2018 could have been 4 percent larger if workers did not face barriers to working longer.”

“Studies have shown that older workers are highly engaged, with low turnover, and often serve an important role as mentors,” Whitman added. “Their expertise helps businesses and pays big dividends for the economy as a whole. Employers who embrace age diversity will be at an advantage.”

The AARP report comes on the heels of approval by the U.S. House of Representatives of bipartisan legislation to combat age discrimination, the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act.

“The House vote sends a strong bipartisan message that age bias has to be treated as seriously as other forms of workplace discrimination,” said Nancy LeaMond, AARP executive vice president and chief advocacy and engagement officer, in a news release. “Age discrimination is widespread, but it frequently goes unreported and unaddressed.”

Backed by AARP, POWADA would address an adverse 2009 Supreme Court decision that made it much more difficult for older workers to prove claims of illegal bias based on age. The legislation would restore long standing protections under the Age Discrimination Employment Act, which covers workers aged 40 and over.

The new study included a survey last July and August of 5,000 people age 50-plus to identify how they have experienced age discrimination at work or while looking for work.

The survey analyzed:

• involuntary retirement due to age bias

• 50-plus workers involuntarily in part-time jobs

• missed opportunities for wage growth

• lost earnings following involuntary job separation

• longer periods of unemployment compared to younger workers

• people age 50 and older who dropped out of the labor force, but want to continue working.

  • Done Reading?

    Take me back to the top

Latest News


Sign-up for our e-newsletter filled with featured stories and latest news.


Shred Day

April 14 @ 8:00 am - 12:00 pm

Spring Career and Internship Fair in Pasco

April 25 @ 10:00 am - 2:00 pm

Head & Neck 5K/2-Mile Walk in Richland

April 15 @ 9:00 am