Steve King, partner in Emergent Research and a regular contributor to explains why age discrimination is one of the reasons for the rapid growth in business ownership among men and women over 65.

A recent report by the Washington Post, “Baby Boomers are Taking on Ageism—and Losing,” explores a topic we often hear about from participants in our research of work-related issues—ageism, or the discrimination in employment practices against older workers or potential workers. We hear about it mostly from baby boomers who tell us it’s one of the reasons they became self-employed.

Corporate America, whether they admit it or not—or even realize it—prefers younger employees more than older ones. Because of this, age discrimination has become a major challenge for baby boomers.

Key quote from the article:

Often needing to stay in jobs longer than they anticipated to shore up savings depleted during the Great Recession, or simply wanting to remain active further into their lengthening life spans, they’re coming up against a strong preference in America for youthful “energy” and “innovation.”

Age discrimination is common across most industries, which is a problem for the growing number of aging boomers who want or need to continue working, an issue explored recently in a New York Times article, “Of Retirement Age, but Remaining in the Work Force.”

12.8% | People older than 65 that held a job in 2000
18.8% | People older than 65 who hold a job in 2016

Why older workers are choosing self-employment

The combination of older people wanting or needing to work coupled with age discrimination means more older workers are choosing (or are being forced to choose) self-employment. Not only does this flank age discrimination, it also provides much more flexibility—something most older workers tell us they seek.

The Kauffman Foundation’s Annual Entrepreneurship Index shows the shift to entrepreneurship and self-employment by older Americans.



Why business ownership will continue this trend

Expect the trend toward older entrepreneurship to continue—not just in the U.S., but globally. This is due in large part to demographics. The world is getting older and by 2030 there will be 56 countries where there are more people 65 and older than under the age of 15.

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An earlier version of this article appeared in Emergence Research’s Small Business Labs.

Photo: Thinkstock

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