well reflect managerial or interpersonal problems. Thus, such behavior on the part of workers or applicants would tend to overstate the incidence of age discrimination. This belief is bolstered by the fact that the overwhelming majority of cases brought to the EEOC are dismissed by the agency without substantiating the complainants' claims. For example, Table 4.1 illustrates that from 1996 to 1999, 87 percent of all age-related cases brought before the agency were judged not to be meritorious to the claimant.

At the same time, workers (or job applicants) who have been the subject of adverse actions may not know that they have been targets of age discrimination even when the adverse action has been taken because of age. For example, an individual is often not told why she or he was not hired and most likely does not know who was hired instead, so comparison of ages, qualifications, and experience becomes difficult. Or, rather than recognizing discrimination, the person internalizes the dismissal or lack of promotion and blames it on himself or herself. Such behavior would tend to lead to underestimates of the incidence of age discrimination. Note also that some employers are now requiring employees to agree in advance to mandatory arbitration of discrimination claims as a condition of employment. Such agreements, if implemented (and upheld in court when challenged) on a large scale, would make EEOC filing rates even weaker indicators of the incidence of discrimination.

For these reasons, it is impossible to obtain an objective measure of the prevalence of age discrimination in IT employment from EEOC data.

4.3.2 Labor Market Survey Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics

Because of difficulties in interpreting data regarding claims of discrimination (such as that from the EEOC), the committee turned to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) on the labor market experiences of older and younger IT workers. The committee sought to determine whether the labor market outcomes of older workers in IT relative to younger workers in IT were substantively different than the relative outcomes of older versus younger workers in the rest of the labor market. To the extent that there are relative differences (and that those differences are negative for older workers), it provides some evidence that could indicate age discrimination. To the extent that the experiences of older workers in IT are similar to those of older workers in other sectors of the economy, it is evidence that older workers are treated no differently in IT than in other occupations. However, neither circumstance establishes the presence or absence of age discrimination.

Based on this analysis of the available data from the BLS, the following appears to describe the IT workforce:

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement