Existence and perception of intergenerational differences in welfare state attitudes

Laura Konzelmann, Technical University Munich (TUM)

Much evidence substantiates that the German population is both ageing and decreasing: The ratio of young versus old has fallen considerably during the last decades. The consequences of population ageing are manifold. It is often speculated that this process might lead to a generational conflict. This conflict is theorized to be rooted in age-specific interests and demands, particularly with regard to preferred government action in age-sensitive welfare state policies. A common approach to analyse generational conflict consists of contrasting the attitudes of the old and the young. However, this approach takes for granted that objective differences in views are congruent with how problems are perceived subjectively by each group, which is an overly simplistic assumption. This study is the first to problematize this assumption by investigating the relation between the existence and the perception of intergenerational differences in welfare state preferences. The main findings reveal that differences in welfare state preferences between young and old are surprisingly small, while the subjective perception that young and old differ from each other substantially is widespread. This study broadens the prevailing view on generational conflict by offering a more nuanced understanding of generational dissimilarities in an ageing society.

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Presented in Session 75: Economic and social consequences of population ageing