Falling Between the Cracks: Discrimination Laws and Older Women

40 Pages Posted: 20 Aug 2018 Last revised: 27 Feb 2020

Date Written: July 24, 2018


Theories and evidence suggest that older women may experience unique discrimination for being both old and female in the workplace. To provide remedy for this type of discrimination – known as intersectional discrimination – legal scholars argue that age and sex discrimination laws must be used jointly and acknowledge intersectional discrimination (age-plus-sex or sex-plus-age discrimination) as a separate cause of action. Nonetheless, in general, courts have declined to do so even though older women are protected under both age and sex discrimination laws. This raises a concern that age discrimination laws may be ineffective, or less effective in protecting older women. I test this implication by estimating the differential effect of age discrimination laws on labor market outcomes between older women and older men. My findings show that age discrimination laws did far less to improve labor market outcomes for older women than for older men. This may explain one reason for persistent discrimination against older women found in existing literature and supports the legal scholars’ argument that older women’s intersectional discrimination must be recognized as a separate cause of action.

Keywords: Older Women, Intersectional Discrimination, Age Discrimination, Sex Discrimination, Age-Plus-Sex, Sex-Plus-Age, Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

JEL Classification: J18, J71, J78, K31

Suggested Citation

McLaughlin, Joanne, Falling Between the Cracks: Discrimination Laws and Older Women (July 24, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3219278 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3219278

Joanne McLaughlin (Contact Author)

University at Buffalo ( email )

441 Fronczak Hall
Buffalo, NY 14260
United States

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