Intergenerational Justice Perceptions and the Role of Welfare Regimes: A Comparative Analysis of University Students

Clara Sabbagh, Pieter Vanhuysse

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

This study analyzes intergenerational justice perceptions among 2,075 undergraduate students in 1996-1998 across eight democracies spanning four welfare regime types. It examined how different regimes structure perceptions of (a) justness in principle of young-to-old public resource transfers and (b) actual contributions to and rewards from society of various age groups. Support in principle of young-to-old transfers is higher in social democratic and conservative than in liberal and radical welfare regimes and correlates positively with a welfare-statist ideological frame and negatively with a market-based frame. Regarding actual contributions to society, the following ordering of age groups was obtained: adults > youth > elderly. Regarding actual rewards, the ranking was adults > elderly ≥ youth. But in the conservative regime, the youngest age group ranked lowest in perceived rewards and highest in perceived contributions. It was concluded that there is a distinct perception of intergenerational injustice among these populations of highly educated young citizens.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)638-667
Number of pages30
JournalAdministration and Society
Volume42
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2010

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Sabbagh Clara 1 Vanhuysse Pieter 2 1 University of Haifa, Israel 2 European Centre for Social Welfare Policy and Research, Vienna, Austria Pieter Vanhuysse, Berggasse 17, A-1090 Vienna, Austria Email: vanhuysse@euro.centre.org Clara Sabbagh is Senior Lecturer in sociology of education at the Faculty of Education, University of Haifa, Israel. Her current research interests include distributive justice and its activation at micro and macro levels, including intergenerational justice, family, and education. In these areas, she adopts a cross-cultural perspective, with the aim of distinguishing between universal and culture-specific aspects of justice. Pieter Vanhuysse is Senior Researcher at the European Centre for Social Welfare Policy and Research in Vienna. His work tackles the comparative politics of social policies, education, and democratic transitions and has appeared in numerous journals including Journal of Social Policy , Journal of European Social Policy , Public Choice , Political Studies , Journal of Public Policy , Journal of European Public Policy , and International Journal of Social Welfare . He has coedited Post-Communist Welfare Pathways (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009) and authored Divide and Pacify: Strategic Social Policies and Political Protests in Post-Communist Democracies (CEU Press, 2006), which was nominated for the American Sociological Association’s Best Book Award in Political Sociology. 10 2010 42 6 638 667 © 2010 SAGE Publications 2010 SAGE Publications This study analyzes intergenerational justice perceptions among 2,075 undergraduate students in 1996-1998 across eight democracies spanning four welfare regime types. It examined how different regimes structure perceptions of (a) justness in principle of young-to-old public resource transfers and (b) actual contributions to and rewards from society of various age groups. Support in principle of young-to-old transfers is higher in social democratic and conservative than in liberal and radical welfare regimes and correlates positively with a welfare-statist ideological frame and negatively with a market-based frame. Regarding actual contributions to society, the following ordering of age groups was obtained: adults > youth > elderly. Regarding actual rewards, the ranking was adults > elderly ≥ youth. But in the conservative regime, the youngest age group ranked lowest in perceived rewards and highest in perceived contributions. It was concluded that there is a distinct perception of intergenerational injustice among these populations of highly educated young citizens. generational politics intergenerational solidarity student populations justice attitudes welfare states public policy population aging We gratefully acknowledge research support from the European Centre for Social Welfare Policy and Research in Vienna. For helpful comments, we thank seminar participants at the 2008 International Sociological Association Conference in Barcelona and the 2006 Conference of the International Society for Justice Research in Berlin. The two authors have contributed equally; their names are listed alphabetically. The authors declared no conflicts of interests with respect to the authorship and/or publication of this article. The authors received no financial support for the research and/or authorship of this article. 1. For subsequent summaries and extensions, see Arts and Gelissen (2002) , Castles (1993) , and Castles and Obinger (2008) . 2. Similarly, norms of reciprocity can lead to logical problems when applied to nonadjacent generations whose lifetimes never overlap ( Barry, 1989 , p. 189). Another problem regards generations that do not coexist at the same time ( Barry, 1988 ; Epstein, 1992 ; Fishkin, 1992 ; Laslett, 1992 ; Scanlon, 1998 ). Philosophical and normative questions here include what current generations owe to future generations regarding finite environmental resources ( Hegtvedt & Flinn, 2000 ), technological development ( Barry, 1978 ), and just savings ( Rawls, 1971 ). On the equity of relative benefits and burdens between age groups, see Daniels (1988) . 3. For instance, since the 1980s, social security and other programs for the elderly have increasingly come under attack in the United States ( Campbell, 2003 ; Ermisch, 1989 ; Silverstein et al., 2000 ). 4. Statistical differences in sample composition were as following: Sex × Regime Type, χ 2 = 24.36, p < .000; Age × Regime Type, F (3, 1949) = 9.93, p < .000; and Income Quartiles × Regime Type, χ 2 = 67.29, p < .000. Income distribution into quartiles specifies to what extent a given respondent belongs to the upper, middle-upper, middle-lower, and lower income quartile. 5. We are grateful to this journal’s reviewer for pointing this out.

Keywords

  • generational politics
  • intergenerational solidarity
  • justice attitudes
  • population aging
  • public policy
  • student populations
  • welfare states

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration
  • Marketing

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