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I agree with Marcus. Interpreted uncharitably, this might actually come off as a bit of a backhanded compliment. Also, age is not really all that relevant in academic contexts. People start their philosophy careers at all sorts of ages. What matters is what you have gotten done during or since your time in a PhD program.


Yep I agree. Stating that the candidate has more swiftly through their grad program and amassed an impressive publication record while still in grad school is all one needs to say...


more agreement from me.

Age would risk coming off badly in the us - search committee members would find it odd, wonder if it was a backhanded compliment etc. As others said, what matters is career stage, not age.

However, I get there is differences between the US and Europe. In the US professors often work past 80. I don't think I've ever seen someone express reservations about age, and I've seen a lot of older assistant professors get hired. But in Europe, some countries have max ages for the time you can get hired as an assistant professor equivalent, and also mandatory retirement ages. So things might be different in that context.

In the US, The Age Discrimination Employment Act would make those Europe laws illegal. It is also illegal to ask about age or judge someone negatively because of age. Of course, enforcement is always different, but I don't get the impression there are many attempts to violate this, unlike other laws that are violated all the time.

I also think it's funny that academic colleagues often tell me I look like a student. Ha, I wish that was true. I really don't. The students don't think so. Only professors in their 50s! that feel young because the average age in the department is 72!

Old man

There are contexts where age matters (even admitting it is problematic). There are prizes and such that are limited to people under 35, for example. And it may be in the interest of a hiring department to have a person that may be eligible for such a prestigious prize.

But one problematic part of this is that late-bloomers are penalized. Those who get to the trough early, tend to get awards, grants, prizes, etc., even when their growth or productivity does not match someone else who may not have been so productive so early in their career.



It is not illegal to ask about age in the US. It may be illegal to discriminate on the basis of age, depending on the age of the applicant and your jurisdiction.

That said, it’s also illegal to discriminate on the basis of race or gender, but nobody pays attention to that, as evidenced by the enormous advantage given to women and racial minorities in philosophy hiring, despite this being a civil rights violation.


The age discrimination in Employment Act makes age discrimination against persons older than 40 illegal. That has generally been interpreted as prohibiting certain questions about age, notably, questions that are not to assure that a candidate meets an *age minimum.* When I have been on hiring committees, asking about age has always been listed as on of the "don't ask!" questions on the HR avoid legal trouble list.

And yep, I said enforcement is a different thing. But as I mentioned, it is not my experience that persons are tempted to violate the age discrimination laws in the same way as other laws. That has just been my impression in the US, that's all.

Below is a typical HR explanation of the age stuff. The reason there isn't a more straightforward ban is various jobs require knowing that someone is *at least* a certain age, and so some employers have to ask for date of birth, and they might have to ask for it for benefits and stuff too. Sometimes barriers are put up so only non-hiring personal see the DOB.



Also, the age discrimination in employment act is a federal law, so jurisdiction isn't much of an issue. I think there is a minimum number of employee requirement that is pretty low, 15 or 20 or something like that. And there are always a few small exceptions, but generally speaking it is applicable most places in the US, and nearly all universities.


I agree that career stage is the better frame of reference. For one, people in different countries get their PhDs at different ages (i.e., in their 20s vs in their 30s), and age may be interpreted in odd ways across those cultural contexts. I think it's not for the letter writer to make the call about letting committees know the chronological age of the applicant.


It is simple: ageism is wrong! Period.

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