Age, Cohort and Perceived Age Discrimination: Using the Life Course to Assess Self-reported Age Discrimination

  • Gilbert Gee
  • Eliza K. Pavalko Indiana University
  • J. Scott Long Indiana University


Self-reported discrimination is linked to diminished well-being, but the processes generating these reports remain poorly understood. Employing the life course perspective, this paper examines the correspondence between expected age preferences for workers and perceived age discrimination among a nationally representative sample of 7,225 working women, followed between 1972-1989. Analyses find that perceived age discrimination is high in the 20s, drops in the 30s and peaks in the 50s. This curvilinear pattern matches external reports of age preferences and is robust to a variety of controls and model specifi cations. Additionally, the primary driver of perceived age discrimination is age – not cohort or historical period. These fi ndings suggest that perceived age discrimination is a useful indicator of population-level exposure to work-related age discrimination among women.


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