Aging workers experience the longest unemployment spells of any segment of the labor force and are much more likely than their younger counterparts to drop out of employment entirely. Yet, we still know little about aging workers' struggles to regain employment following job loss. Do they see themselves as structurally disadvantaged? And, what are the consequences for self-perceptions, notions of fairness, and even mental health? We fill this gap by drawing on 52 semi-structured qualitative interviews with workers aged 40-65 who lost jobs during the Great Recession and have been attempting to find work since. Notable is their keen awareness of both age-specific labor market disadvantages and processes complicating re-employment for all unemployed workers during this period. Respondents articulate sophisticated analyses of how employer biases, credentialism, the job search process, and changes in the economy present very real barriers to reemployment. These perceptions and experiences, our materials suggest, have far-reaching social-psychological consequences, including loss of belief in meritocracy within major institutions; questioning of self-worth; and feelings of isolation, hopelessness and depression-consequences to which stratification scholars should devote more attention, especially since many aging workers become discouraged and eventually drop out of the labor force.
- Aging workers
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science
- Social Sciences (miscellaneous)