2015 American Working Conditions Survey: Focus on Older Versus Younger Workers

Authors

Abstract

In this report we highlight findings on the differing job demands of older versus younger workers from the 2015 American Working Conditions Survey (AWCS), a new nationally representative survey of U.S. workers ages 25-71. We find that generally older workers (over age 50) report better working conditions than younger workers, with some exceptions (e.g., on-the-job training, prospects for career advancement).

Key Findings

  • We find that, generally, workers older than 50 report better working conditions than younger workers, with some exceptions (e.g., on-the-job training, prospects for career advancement).
  • An overwhelming fraction of Americans report either intense or repetitive physical exertion on the job at least a quarter of the time. This burden is unequally distributed, with noncollege-educated workers having substantially greater physical demands. But perhaps surprisingly, even the college educated, older workers, and women are affected.
  • A disturbingly high fraction of American workers (both men and women) are exposed to a hostile or threatening social environment at work, 13 percent of all men and 12 percent of all women reporting verbal abuse or threats in the past month, for example. The incidence of hostile experiences varies in important ways by gender, age, and experience (with younger and middle-aged women more likely to have unwanted sexual attention, and a large fraction of young men experiencing verbal abuse). But it is telling that a hostile social environment at work is much more evenly distributed by education groups than physical working conditions.
  • Consistent with human capital theory, the prevalence of training declines with age. Sixty-two percent of men and 68 percent of women younger than 35 report on-the-job training, compared with 46 percent of men and 49 percent of women age 50 and older.

Citation

Maestas, Nichole, Kathleen J. Mullen, David Powell, Jeffrey Wenger, and Till von Wachter. 2016. "2015 American Working Conditions Survey: Focus on Older Versus Younger Workers." Ann Arbor, MI. University of Michigan Retirement Research Center (MRRC) Working Paper, WP 2017-362. http://mrdrc.isr.umich.edu/publications/papers/pdf/wp362.pdf

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Project

Paper ID

WP 2016-362

Publication Type

Working Paper

Publication Year

2016