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Does Protecting Older Workers from Discrimination Make It Harder to Get Hired?
David Neumark, Joanne Song McLaughlin and Patrick Button
WP 2014-311

We study the effects of disability discrimination laws on hiring of older workers. These laws do not specifically define older disabled workers as a protected class. But the incidence of disabilities rises steeply with age, so older workers may be disproportionately affected by disability discrimination laws. Moreover, the perception that a worker is likely to have a disability in the near future should also rise steeply with age, and that perception may affect older workers adversely. We estimate the effects of disability discrimination laws on hiring of disabled workers, focusing some attention on hiring of nondisabled older workers. We use state variation in disability discrimination protections, which can strengthen the coverage of these laws by using a broader definition of disability than the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or applying to smaller firms, or can entail higher costs via larger damages. The preliminary evidence supports the following conclusions. First, state disability discrimination laws that use the broader definition of disability appear to raise rather than reduce hiring of nondisabled older workers. Second, stronger state disability protections reduce hiring of, at least, younger disabled workers. Most importantly, we find no evidence of adverse effects of disability discrimination laws on older workers – either from weaker tests we use to study the disabled, or more-compelling difference-in-differences tests we can use to study the nondisabled. The latter evidence points to positive effects on hiring of older workers, as does complementary evidence on stronger state protections against age discrimination.

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