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Is downward mobility the new American dream for aging workers?

When someone ponders the American dream, the typical notions that swirl through the brain might tend to be positive ones.

Marrying the partner of your dreams is likely high on the list. Having the home you always dreamed of might be near the top. Landing a dream job that sustains you through to retirement might hold the number one spot.

These days, though, such notions appear to be taking on a rather ominous tinge for those in mid-life and older. Many individuals in California and elsewhere are finding that, as they reach the 50-year-old mark, the dream has suddenly become a nightmarish, downward spiral. As the world's population gets older, experts observe that age discrimination is on the rise.

Despite it being illegal, it is not uncommon for employers to use age as a major factor in deciding who gets laid off. Experts say this trend started in the 1980s, when business deregulation became a government priority. Individuals who feel they've been victim of such a practice have rights that they should seek to defend. Consulting an experienced attorney is the way to do that.

Just how prevalent is age discrimination? Well, according to a recent study in the Journal of Age and Ageing, it seems common. About one third of British respondents in their 50s and older reported they had been victims of age discrimination.

Another set of surveys done this year by AARP reflect that job insecurity is a key concern of older workers. Thirty-seven percent of individuals 50 and over said they worried that if they lost their job now, they'd likely have to move or take a pay cut to find something new. Of that group, about 20 percent cited outright age discrimination as the reason for their fear.

More evidence of the reality of the issue can be seen in data from the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. It notes that charges of age discrimination rose from about 16,000 in 2006 to nearly 23,000 in 2012.

Will the trend continue into 2014? Some legal experts say yes.

Source: Truthout, "Fifty Is the New 65: Older Americans Are Getting Booted From Their Jobs - and Denied New Opportunities," Lynn Parramore, AlterNet, Dec. 30, 2013

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