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Jan 30, 2020
Age Discrimination Costs U.S. Economy $850 Billion a Year, AARP Report Finds
Multi-Generational Workforces Add Major Value, Study Notes

WASHINGTONAge discrimination against people age 50 and older robbed the economy of $850 billion in 2018, a new AARP report has found.

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

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.

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, the study shows. 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 groundbreaking 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” (POWADA).

“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 & Engagement Officer. “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 longstanding protections under the Age Discrimination Employment Act (ADEA), which covers workers aged 40 and over.

The new study includes a survey last July and August of 5000 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; and
  • people age 50 and older who dropped out of the labor force, but want to continue working.

The study makes it clear that in order to benefit from age “inclusion,” employers need not only to recognize age bias, but actually “actively” stop it; they need to “bust myths” about older workers, be it that they cost too much or are not tech-savvy; they need to recognize the value that experienced workers bring to the workplace, like their dependability and ability to problem-solve and remain calm under pressure, and they must build and support a multi-generational workforce (per the discussion above).

For information on AARP workforce-related resources, go to

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AARP is the nation's largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering people 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. With a nationwide presence and nearly 38 million members, AARP strengthens communities and advocates for what matters most to families: health security, financial stability and personal fulfillment. AARP also produces the nation's largest circulation publications: AARP The Magazine and AARP Bulletin. To learn more, visit or follow @AARP and @AARPadvocates on social media.

Contact: Media Relations,, 202-434-2560