Gender and Age Bias in Recession Layoffs

Genderand Age Bias in Recession Layoffs

Genderand Age Bias in Recession Layoffs


Overthe past century the world has witnessed a number of economicdownturns that have had an adverse effect on all the economic agents.In such times, so many firms in the United States of America undergoserious liquidity challenges and some are forced to close theirenterprise, especially if they have massive debts and are unable tosettle them. Labor has always been the most affected factor ofproduction as firms downsize their labor force in order to cut downthe cost of operations to avoid liquidity challenges. The standardprocedure for layoffs is usually to ensure that the procedure is donein accordance with the priorities, so that the staff carrying out themost essential tasks are retained while the rest are relieved off,from their duties(Ching et al, 2010).According to human resource critics, the exercise, is not in any waysupposed to be done soas to target certain age or gender as thiswould bring discord. A look at the past recessions together with themassive layoffs has suggested that this could not be the case (Chinget al, 2010).There has been a tendency of the recessions to disproportionallyaffect members of a certain gender and certain age group.

Thegreat recession was a global economic phenomenon that has affectedmost people all over the world, and in most cases with unavoidablecauses, its effects need to be mitigated so that the economic agents,especially the manpower does not suffer unnecessarily. This is toinclude the fact that if massive layoffs are a necessity, then itshould be done in a humane way with minimum biasness. This is becausebias has always been the worry that most workers in major economicworld powers face. It is a source of job insecurity because no one iscertain whether the bias layoffs were going to spare them or not.

TheGreat Recession was an experience during which many Americans becamefamiliar with the term “layoff.” According to Noer (2009)layoffs are used to diminish costs to sustain an organization.Auguste, Lund, and Manyika (2011) state that layoffs are ananticipated factor in an economic downturn, and Mulia, Zemore,Murphy, Liu, and Catalano (2014) assert that the rate of men beinglaid off during this time was slightly greater than that of women. Inaddition, there were younger than older adults being laid off, whilemany mature adults were forced into retirement. The statisticaldifference between men and women being laid off gradually increasedyearly to 3% (Mathur &amp Strain, 2012), and two-thirds of youngadults experienced involuntary turnover during the same time(Forsythe, 2015).

Themain aim of this paper is to have a critical look at the effect thatthe great depression has had on the gender and age biasness wheneverthe need to lay off staff arises. It will seek to find the motivatingfactors and how the vice can be corrected.

Purposeof Study

Therehas been an ongoing public debate on the unemployment rate thataccompanies the great recession in most parts of the United States.People are strongly seeking answers on how the negative effects ofrecession can be minimized in a scientific way rather than targetingcertain genders and age without proper justification. Thus, thereason for researching this paper. Another reason is to seek answersto the public concerns as well as the answers to the questionspresented in the research objectives.

TheGreat Recession left many Americans workers devastated with worryabout their future. The purpose of this cross-sectional survey studyis to test the double jeopardy hypothesis to determine if gender andage have any influence on job retention in the wake of a recession inthe public sector of the United States. The independent variable inthis study is the Great Recession, and the dependent variable is thepublic sector. The controlled and intervening variables are age andgender.I can effect social change through this research by redirecting thelayoff process from uncontrollable circumstances of age and gender tofactors dependent only upon an employee’s work quality andperformance for a better working environment for American workers.


Accordingto Taylor, Charlton, and Ranyard (2012) the double jeopardyhypothesis explains “how risks inherent in membership of morevulnerable social groups combine or interact to intensifydisadvantages if an individual has membership of more than one suchgroup simultaneously” (p. 354). This study is intended to examineif age and gender combined can affect who is laid off in publicsector organizations when there is a recession. This significance isdeveloped through the government’s practice of Keynesianism.

Thestudy will be significant to the policy makers and the firms as theoutcomes of the research will help them work out proper mechanisms todetermine the right staff to be laid off for the good of the company,with justifiable and measurable effects that will not have negativeeffects on the employee in economic terms.


Thegreat depression was a very severe economic meltdown that affectedstate economies across the world. Although the economic downturnbegan in the United States of America, it lead into seriousreductions in productivity, high levels of unemployment as firmsdownsized their labor force, as well as acute deflation in almost allthe countries in the world (Romer,2003).However, nowhere else in the world did the great depression haveadverse social and cultural negative effects than in the UnitedStates of America. In fact, the economic meltdown is ranked second tothe American civil war as the gravest crisis in the history of theUnited States (Romer,2003).

Inthe past three decades, the United States of America has witnessedvery significant shifts in the composition of the labor force acrossall the industries in terms of the age, educational qualifications aswell as the gender compositions. Past studies indicate that duringthe economic downturns women tend to be the least affected whenemployees are laid off and at the same time are the most likely tofind another job in a shorter period of time compared to their malecounterparts(De La Rica &amp Rebollo‐sanz,2015).The estimated figures are based on the popular agreement that maleworkers are represented disproportionally in highly cyclicalindustries of the economy, while their female counterparts arerepresented disproportionally in non cyclical industries such as theservice sectors of the economy.

Withthe economy experiencing a constant supply in labor, the shocks onthe demand for labor is more for male workers than it is for women,hence, leading to a greater rightward shift in the demand for laborwhen the economy is undergoing expansion, and greater thanproportionate leftward shift in the demand for labor in contractiontimes. Nevertheless, during the 2007 recession the working men wentthrough a disproportionate negative effect as compared to the workingwomen resulting to a great increase in the unemployment rate(De La Rica &amp Rebollo‐sanz,2015).There has also been a tendency by employers to lay off senior membersof the workforce of either gender, especially those who areapproaching their retirement ages.

Inthe United States, between the years of 2007 and 2009, theunemployment rate rose from 5% to 9.5% (Bureau of Labor StatisticsSpotlight, 2012). While many in the public sector felt secure, theywere subsequently surprised by the advent of the Great Recession(Kopelman &amp Rosen, 2014). According to the WashingtonPost(2013), one of the biggest hits to the unemployment rate wasattributed to the government downsizing, which was directly relatedto corporate bail out, due to the stock market crash. When theshockwave hit the nation, everyone felt the repercussions, a changein the economic balance that would leave many devastated, withoutjobs or homes.

Thisresearcher is intended to give a contribution to the differentials ingender and age. It gives an overview of the effects that the greatdepression has had on the dynamics of the labor market in the UnitedStates of America which has often been hit hardly and also wheredisparities are witnessed in terms of layoffs. Previous researchworks have tried to investigate the extent to which variations inunemployment is related to the rate of employments as well as thelayoffs. Although a number of researches have carried out onunemployment variability, a very small number of studies have beendone, and aimed at addressing the issue of differentials in the insand outs of the labor force in as far as the gender and the agecomposition of the workers is concerned. The convergence in the rateof unemployment between the genders and the age differentials duringthe past economic downturns has posed some interesting topics ofstudy for researchers and the policy formulators, encompassing therole that the structural and the cyclical factors play in influencingthe behavior of the unemployment gender and age gap during therecessionary period. Improvingthe understanding of the age and gender differences in the mobilityof labor patterns will make it possible for the policy makers both atthe government and organizational level to improve the conditions inthe market in the future.


Duringthe Great Recession, the United States practiced Keynesianism,increasing government spending (Kindelberger, 2015) to bail out largebanking organizations. The more efficient theory of monetarism shouldhave been followed during this time. Monetarism focuses on limitingbank lending and using those funds to combat inflation (Kindelberger,2015). Monetarism also suggest following natural rate ofunemployment, which states that there will not be any permanentchanges to unemployment beyond that of its natural level(Policonomics, 2012) during a certain period. In this case, thegovernment should have worked with monetarism to fight the effects ofthe Great Recession.

ResearchQuestion(s) and Hypotheses

Whatwere the most important factors that influenced employee retentionduring the Great Recession of 2007-2009 with public sector jobs inAmerica?

Q1.To what extent does gender play a role in employee retention whenfaced with an economic recession?

Q2.To what extent does age play a role in employee retention whencompanies are faced with an economic recession?

Natureof the Study


TheGreat Recession is one single event that affected multiple countriesaffiliated with trading. According to Pandis (2014), cross- sectionalquantitative studies occur when the researcher looks at a singleevent over multiple occurrences. The Great Recession is a singleevent that occurred in both the public and private sector of theUnited States. Across-sectional study looks at data about the issue or event withoutmanipulating the study’s environment (Institute for Work andHealth, 2015). According to Pandis (2014), cross-sectional studiesallow feature previews of a specific point in time. Cross-sectionalstudies allow the researcher to examine differences between subjects(Pandis, 2014). The selected subjects in the study are examined inlarge numbers and are randomly selected (Pandis, 2014).

SecondaryData Types and Sources of Information

Secondaryliterature review will be done to so that the theoreticalunderpinnings could be noted. All the data were collected afterverification.For this study, I plan to use data from the Bureau of LaborStatistics to analyze the employment rates from 2007 to 2009. I planto use employment data by various industries to represent the publicsector. I then plan to pull Current Population Surveys from theBureau of Labor Statistics to obtain data about age and gender withinthese industries to perform a compare and contrast analysis ofemployed and unemployed persons during the years of the GreatRecession. I also plan to use the United States 2010 Census toprovide a conclusion of gender and age differences in employment as aresult of this recent economic event.


Tointerpret the data analysis from the public sector during the GreatRecession, I will be using IBM SPSS. According to the University ofVermont (n.d.), SPSS is able to take large amounts of information andanalyze it. SPSS also allows the researcher to convert theinformation into tables and graphs (University of Vermont, n.d.).SPSS is dominantly used in the business world and for social sciencespurposes (University of Vermont, n.d.).Thestages in the statistical analysis were data preparation, andtabulation of data. Data preparation includes coding and editing(McDaniel and Gates, 2002). Editing is the process of ascertainingthat questionnaires were filled out properly and completely. Thisinvolves checking for interviewer and respondent mistakes. Codingrefers to the process of grouping and assigning numeric codesidentifying various respondents with a particular question. Thequestionnaires were pre-coded. However, open-ended questions had tobe analyzed and coded after completion.

SinceI will be analyzing data from two very large sectors of business, Iwill use bar graphs to display and compare my research findings. Iwill perform this task for each research question. To fully andclearly display how unemployment varied across gender and age duringthe years of the Great Recession, I plan to utilize a bar graph foreach year to reflect the data.


Ching,P., Chan, W., Morissette, R., &amp Frenette, M. (2010). Analyticalstudies branch research paper series workers laid-off during the lastThree recessions: Who were they, and how did they fare? .

DeLa Rica, S., &amp Rebollo‐sanzYolandaF.(2015). Gender differentials in unemployment Ins and outs during thegreat recession in Spain.

McDaniel,C. and Gates, R. (2002). MarketingResearch.Singapore: South-Western.

Romer,C. D. (2003). Forthcoming in the Encyclopaedia Britannica.