Joanna Lahey, PhD '05

Empirical economist documents age discrimination

Even when the data are discouraging, Joanna Lahey, PhD ‘05, listens to the numbers. That’s why her economics research, which documents age discrimination in labor markets, has so much credibility both in academic circles and in the popular press. Her work could affect both government policy and individual expectations.

Joanna Lahey PhD ‘05

Lahey, now assistant professor at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University, has documented the difficulties facing many older workers. In one study, she found that contrary to expectations, 50-year-old white men actually worked less in states that enforce federal ­age­-­discrimination laws, suggesting that firms may try to avoid litigation by not hiring older workers in the first place.

Lahey examined age and employment issues through her MIT research and while conducting postdoctoral work at the National Bureau of Economics Research (NBER). At NBER, she tested for age discrimination in job markets by distributing 8,000 résumés for female applicants of varying ages to firms in St. Petersburg, FL, and Boston. “A younger worker in either state is more than 40 percent more likely than an older worker to be called back for an interview,” she says.

Her work has been reported on American Public Radio as well as in the Wall Street Journal and USA Today. She received the 2006 best-­dissertation award from the W. E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research. And her results will be published in forthcoming papers in the Journal of Human Resources and the Journal of Law and Economics.

Lahey’s empirical approach to economics took root at the Institute. “I had great mentors at MIT,” she says. In particular, professor of economics Dora Costa “strongly encouraged me to try new hypotheses if my original idea was not answered by the data.”

In addition to research, Lahey enjoys teaching graduate students in public policy. “They start out telling me they’re scared to death of math, but by the end of the term, they become comfortable with numbers,” she says. “This is critical, because our public servants must be skilled at using data to craft rational policies.”

Lahey, who earned a bachelor’s degree with honors in mathematics and economics from Pomona College, lives in College Station, TX, with her husband, Ryan Beasley, who teaches electrical engineering at Texas A&M. The couple’s son, Nicholas, was born last December.

Tech Obsessive?
Become an Insider to get the story behind the story — and before anyone else.
Subscribe today

Uh oh–you've read all five of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium

$179.95/yr US PRICE

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe and become an Insider.

  • Insider Premium {! insider.prices.premium !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Our award winning magazine, unlimited access to our story archive, special discounts to MIT Technology Review Events, and exclusive content.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly home delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website.

    The Download. Our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation.

    Access to the Magazine archive. Over 24,000 articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips.

    Special Discounts to select partner offerings

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Ad-free web experience

    First Look. Exclusive early access to stories.

    Insider Conversations. Join in and ask questions as our editors talk to innovators from around the world.

  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}* Best Value

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus ad-free web experience, select discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly home delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website.

    The Download. Our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation.

    Access to the Magazine archive. Over 24,000 articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips.

    Special Discounts to select partner offerings

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Ad-free web experience

  • Insider Basic {! insider.prices.basic !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six issues of our award winning magazine and daily delivery of The Download, our newsletter of what’s important in technology and innovation.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly home delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website.

    The Download. Our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation.

You've read of free articles this month.