Statement on Age Discrimination (updated 2017)

Adopted by AHA Council, June 1996. Revised by the AHA Professional Division and approved by AHA Council, January 5, 2017.

The AHA’s Professional Division has found troubling evidence of age discrimination within the history profession. The Division is particularly concerned about discrimination against older applicants in both position announcements and in the hiring process. More specifically, the Division is concerned about departments trying to narrow the applicant pool through the use of age-restrictive criteria in job descriptions or arbitrarily eliminating otherwise qualified candidates because of age. No one should be denied the opportunity to pursue a career in history because of his or her age.

When a department or institution decides to confine its search to younger applicants, it discriminates against two groups. One is made up of individuals who earned their doctorates during job shortages, have since held a variety of temporary and part-time positions, whether by choice or by the dictates of the job market, and are interested in entry-level positions that offer the possibility of tenured status. While their teaching experience and often impressive publications might be expected to give them an advantage in the search process, they sometimes find themselves passed over for interview as “over-qualified.” The other group that suffers age discrimination is made up of those who have earned their degrees later in life and thus are recent PhDs but no longer young. Such candidates have received the same training as their younger colleagues, and have benefited from more extensive life experience; yet search committees sometime tend to be biased against those whose lives do not fit traditional patterns. By eliminating well-qualified candidates simply because of age, search committees lose valuable opportunities to enrich their departments and institutions.

The Council of the American Historical Association opposes the use of hiring criteria that discriminate against qualified candidates on the basis of age. The use of such criteria at any stage in the search and hiring process is unprofessional and illegal.