The sociological literature on workplace inequality has been relatively clear regarding racial disparities and ongoing vulnerabilities to contemporary structural and employer biases. We still know little, however, about the consequences of age and ageism for minority workers and susceptibilities to downward mobility. Coupling insights regarding race with recent work on employment-based age discrimination, we interrogate in this article African Americans and Whites, aged 55 and older, and the extent to which they experience job loss across time. Our analyses, beyond controlling for key background attributes, distinguish and disaggregate patterns for higher and lower level status managers and professionals and for men and women. Results, derived from data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, reveal unique and significant inequalities. Relative to their White and gender specific counterparts, older African American men and women experience notably higher rates of downward mobility—downward mobility that is not explained by conventional explanations (i.e., human capital credentials, job/labor market characteristics, etc.). Such inequalities are especially pronounced among men and for those initially occupying higher status white-collar managerial and professional jobs compared to technical/skilled professional and blue-collar “first line” supervisors. We tie our results to contemporary concerns regarding ageism in the workplace as well as minority vulnerability. We also suggest an ageism-centered corrective to existing race and labor market scholarship.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science