Aging workers and the experience of job loss

Lora A.Phillips Lassus, Steven Lopez, Vincent J. Roscigno

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Aging workers experience the longest unemployment spells of any segment of the labor force and are much more likely than their younger counterparts to drop out of employment entirely. Yet, we still know little about aging workers' struggles to regain employment following job loss. Do they see themselves as structurally disadvantaged? And, what are the consequences for self-perceptions, notions of fairness, and even mental health? We fill this gap by drawing on 52 semi-structured qualitative interviews with workers aged 40-65 who lost jobs during the Great Recession and have been attempting to find work since. Notable is their keen awareness of both age-specific labor market disadvantages and processes complicating re-employment for all unemployed workers during this period. Respondents articulate sophisticated analyses of how employer biases, credentialism, the job search process, and changes in the economy present very real barriers to reemployment. These perceptions and experiences, our materials suggest, have far-reaching social-psychological consequences, including loss of belief in meritocracy within major institutions; questioning of self-worth; and feelings of isolation, hopelessness and depression-consequences to which stratification scholars should devote more attention, especially since many aging workers become discouraged and eventually drop out of the labor force.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)81-91
Number of pages11
JournalResearch in Social Stratification and Mobility
StatePublished - Sep 1 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Aging workers
  • Inequality
  • Recession
  • Unemployment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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