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Does Age Discrimination Exists In The Labor Market?

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Labor economics

There is factors in life that we cannot change. Some of them are gender, our age and ethnicity. There is already many studies and experiments on ethnicity and gender discrimination and how it affects the labour market. However, the studies on age discrimination are very few and how it does affect the labour market outcome. The unemployment in many countries increases extensively with age which is why it is important to know about the existence about age discrimination. If age discrimination were to exist in the labour market, it will create complications for the politicians on increasing the minimum age for the required retirement age. It will also posture problems for mobility and migration for instance if older workers wants to change a job. It will either end in that the worker will stay in his/her current job or leave the labour market. (Carlsson and Eriksson, 2019) Sweden is an inviting outlet for operating an investigation on ageism. The reason for that is the law prohibiting ageism enforced in the labour market in 2009 and it was the last country to execute the law in the European Union. Therefore, the investigation in Sweden is from a policy perspective interesting to see if the law applied is achieved by the employers and if they really are discriminating people depending on their age. (Ahmed, Andersson and Hammarstedt, 2012)

In the three research paper chosen, “Age discrimination in hiring decisions: Evidence from a field experiment in the labour market” by Magnus Carlsson and Stefan Eriksson, “Does age matter for employability? A field experiment on ageism in the Swedish labour market by Ali Ahmed, Lina Andersson and Mats Hammarstedt, and lastly “A field experiment investigating age discrimination in four European labour markets” by Peter A.Riach. The authors examine and identifies if there is age discrimination in the labour market where Carlsson and Eriksson focuses on the ageism in Sweden as does Ahmed, Andersson and Hammarstedt. Meanwhile Riach explores the ageism in France, Germany, Spain and England where he also conducts his field experiments. So the main research question for the study is, does the age discrimination exist in the labour market?


Carlsson and Eriksson have not set their own theories on their paper but refers instead to Beckers (1957) and Arrow (1973). Discrimination against old workers is frequent by employers as they believe that old workers doesn’t have the same ability to learn new tasks or that it’s harder for them to adapt at new workplaces. They are according to the theory less flexible, less ambitious and less productive. The theory also states that employers also thinks that older people does not have the same desire to work hard as a younger person. However, the main purpose is to create a field experiment on the labour market to see whether age discrimination exists or not. Riach does not test any overall theory on why discrimination prevail but just like Carlsson and Eriksson, he creates a field experiment to see if there is any evidence against age discrimination in the four Europeans labor markets that he has chosen.

The purpose of Ahmed, Andersson and Hammarstedt study is to investigate if there was any evidence of age discrimination through a field experiment in Sweden. There was no theory on why discrimination exists in their study.

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Every study included in this paper is based on field experiment and therefore experimental data. Carlsson and Erikssons study were based on 6066 fictitious job applications with different age and gender. These applications were sent between August 2015 and March 2016 to employers with a job opening in Sweden and the age differences were, around 35-70. Three random job applicants were sent for each random job openings and worth notably is also that the applications were sent a day apart from each other. The examination of the application were made after the callbacks were made. (Carlsson and Eriksson, 2019)

In Riach study, which was similar to Carlsson and Erikssons field experiment, he sent made-up job applications as a waiter in hotels or restaurants to the four different chosen European countries. Here was the experiment on two pairs of men, aged between 27 and 47. The applications were sent one month apart so no confusion would occur and afterwards he could examine when he received the callbacks from the employers. (Riach, 2015)

In the last research study by Ahmed, Andersson and Hammarstedt, which also was similar to the studies before, they sent out fictitious job applications to employers. Here was the experiment on a 31 year old male and a 46 year old male were the applicants were sent out to applicable jobs for restaurants workers and sales assistants. Totally 466 jobs were applied between January 2011 and March 2011 and the examination were made when the callbacks were finished.

The differences in these experiments are the age chosen for each of them. Carlsson and Eriksson chose a quite high age interval, 35 to 70 years, whereas the other two experiments had similar age intervals, between 27 to 47 years old. Looking at these experiments we can see some strength and weaknesses. The strength is that the information we get from the experiments can give us a solid answer to an extent where we can prove if age discrimination exists within the occupation chosen. However, the weakness is that because of the specific occupation chosen, it does not prove if the age discrimination is within the entire labour market if it does appear within some workplaces.


To conclude this report, our research question was: does age discrimination exist in the labour market? The results we got from the three paper chosen, we can see that age discrimination does exist in the labour market in each case. In Carlssons and Eriksson experiment we can see that the employers does chose the younger applicants and does discriminate against older applicants in Sweden when they get closer to the retirement age. However, here is the age interval very high from the beginning which can make the experiment biased as if they did the experiment with much younger applicants. Looking at Riach experiment in the four different countries, we can also see here that employers prefer the younger applicants ahead of the older applicants where Spain had the most age discrimination rate. The negative side of this experiment is that he only made the test for the same occupation which makes this test one-sided and it does not include the whole labour market. So for Riach experiment we can state that age discrimination does exist in these four countries for the occupation applied. Lastly, the results for the last experiment made by Ahmed, Andersson and Hammarstedt also shows that employers often chose to hire or callback the younger applicants. According to their results, the younger applicant had a 3 times more chance to get a callback than the older applicant which is quite numbers. This proofs that age discrimination does exist in the labour market. However, for this experiment, the choice of only one occupation makes it hard for us to know if the discrimination exists in the whole labour market or if it only occurs the chosen occupation. So to answer the research question, we can say that age discrimination does occur in the labour market where employers chose the younger applicants rather than the older ones.


  1. Carlsson, M. and Eriksson, S. (2019). Age discrimination in hiring decisions: Evidence from a field experiment in the labor market. Labour Economics, 59, pp.173-183. Available through: Linneus University Library website [Accessed 28 January 2019]
  2. Peter A. Riach (2015) A field experiment investigating age discrimination in four European labour markets, International Review of Applied Economics, 29:5, 608-619, DOI: 10.1080/02692171.2015.1021667 Available through: Linneus University Library website [Accessed 29 January 2019]
  3. Ali M. Ahmed, Lina Andersson & Mats Hammarstedt (2012) Does age matter for employability? A field experiment on ageism in the Swedish labour market, Applied Economics Letters, 19:4, 403-406, DOI: 10.1080/13504851.2011.581199 Available through: Linneus University Library website [Accessed 30 January 2019]
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