Intergenerational conflicts about social equity, expectations and obligations: lessons from the United States

  • Vern L. Bengston Ethel Percy Andrus Gerontology Center, University of Southern California, USA
  • Tonya M. Parrott Ethel Percy Andrus Gerontology Center, University of Southern California, USA

Abstract

"Justice across generations" has become a policy issue throughout the Western-industrial world during the past decade. Debate about intergenerational equity involves the distribution of resources and obligations across age groups and generations. Our analysis suggests that debate centres around five specific issues: (1) Conceptual confusions between age groups and family generations; (2) disagreements over the meaning of "equity"; (3) arguments about whether supporting the old is an unbearable public cost; (4) differing opinions about familial expectations, obligations and burdens; and (5) discrepancies between media coverage and empirical evidence on intergenerational relations. While these issues first surfaced in the United States, it can be expected that such disputes will arise in many other nations with similar economic environments, demographic profiles, and public sentiment regarding welfare and entitlement spending. We conclude by examining the potential for increased intergenerational solidarity as an outcome of discussions about equity.

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Published
1994-10-01