As far as I can tell, the age distribution of people we fund is the same as the age distribution of applicants.
And yeah, sorry about the 'wall of text' -- I was trying to be very clear about why I was asking, and the fact that this was a request for information, not an accusation of age discrimination.
And, as I'm working on a startup but well out of my twenties, and have a co-founder who is a woman PhD student in the research lab in the computer science department at CU, we probably have a disproportionate number of discussions about age and gender in startups.
So with that disclaimer out of the way...
I think this is interesting. I believe absolutely that YC funds the best people out of those that apply as pg says. Judging the best people out of thousands of applicants would I imagine be difficult even with great judgement. But why would YC not choose the best possible people?
pg is quoted above saying "Off the top of my head, I'd say that older founders are more likely to succeed."
1) the selection team reflects pg's view that older founders are likely to be more likely to succeed (and I think based on other comments I've read that's based on them being more persistent/tougher/resilient), and
2) the age distribution of those selected is the same as the age distribution of the applicants,
then there must be a counterweighting factor that offsets the view that older founders are more likely to succeed. Otherwise you would expect, all other things being equal, that older founders would be disproportionately represented in the selected teams, assuming likely success is one of the determinants of the "best people".
The higher risk and difficulty of maintaining a desirable lifestyle on a ramen income therefore likely have two impacts:
1) Fewer older startup founders apply as noted.
2) The perception of older founders as being more likely to succeed is offset by the perception, conscious or otherwise, that they are less likely to succeed on a "just enough" level of funding.
If this is true, I doubt it's a conscious selection bias, and there's nothing wrong in it. It's just a reality that these factors likely are going to impact any judgement of who are the "best people" for YC's purposes. The older founders selected are likely to have been standout candidates, like all the others selected.
I'd wager that older founders have more anchoring commitments, so while you can draw on a large (geographical) pool of young founders, you can only draw from the few older founders that happen to live near YC itself.
Of course, you have a lot more data, and probably a lot more insight into this question.
Even now, I'm financially secure, I still find it appealing, but uprooting my family (wife+kids) for a few months is not something I am willing to do.