The Age-Gender Interaction Effect on Status Expectations: Investigation and Career Implications

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Principal investigators:

Michael Lovaglia

University of Iowa



Christabel Rogalin

Purdue University North Central




Status characteristics theory and research has demonstrated that men and older members of work groups are expected to contribute more to group success, and thus obtain greater prestige and influence than otherwise similar women and younger members. Life course research, however, suggests that age may have a curvilinear effect: Expectations for an individual’s contributions seem to increase to some peak age in mid-adulthood then decline. We propose a TESS survey-experiment to: (a) use a representative sample to determine whether the contributions and value of workers are expected to decline at some point prior to the typical retirement age and to specify peak age, and (b) use an experimental design to test the hypothesis that a worker’s peak age is lower for women than for men. If the peak age for women occurs in their mid-forties or earlier while the peak age for men occurs significantly later, then women will be increasingly disadvantaged for promotions to the highest levels of organizational leadership, commonly termed the glass ceiling.


Hypothesis 1: Expectations for an individual’s contributions and value at work will peak at some point below the typical retirement age.
Hypothesis 2: Expectations for an individual’s contributions and value at work will peak at a lower age for women than for men.
Hypothesis 3: Expectations for the age of an individual’s peak contributions and value at work will increase with a respondent’s age.

Experimental Manipulations

Two experimental conditions: one tapping expectations for female workers, the other for male workers.


Expectations of individual's contribution to the workplace


Kelley, Christopher, Lovaglia, Michael, Soboroff, Shane, Rogalin, Christabel, and Lucas, Jeffrey. 2009. "Status, Prestige and Expected Value in Work Settings: The Age-Gender Interaction" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association Annual Meeting, Hilton San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, Aug 08.