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Danish Center for Welfare Studies

Societies and Demographic Change

The ’Societies and Demographic Change’ research area at DaWS studies a wide number of research topics at the interface of populations, generations, policies and politics, where demographic issues and challenges can be better understood using social science and public policy approaches and theories, notably political sociology, political economy, social policy, and political demography. This research area is interdisciplinary and works together closely with the Business and Social Sciences unit of the Centre for Population Dynamics (CPOP-SAMF) at the University of Southern Denmark.



PLOS ONE article by Pieter Vanhuysse, Márton Medgyesi & Róbert Gál on ‘Welfare States as Lifecycle Redistribution Machines’

ABSTRACT - Social scientists identify two core functions of modern welfare states as redistribution across (a) socio-economic status groups (Robin Hood) and (b) ’the lifecycle’ (the piggy bank). But what is the relative importance of these functions? The answer has been elusive, as the piggy bank is metaphorical. The intra-personal time-travel of resources it implies is based on non-quid-pro-quo transfers. In practice, ‘lifecycle redistribution’ must operate through inter-age-group resource reallocation in cross-section. Since at any time different birth cohorts live together, ’resource-productive’ working-aged people are taxed to finance consumption of ’resource-dependent’ younger and older people. In a novel decomposition analysis, we study the joint distribution of socio-economic status, age, and respectively (a) all cash and in-kind transfers (‘benefits’), (b) financing contributions (‘taxes’), and (c) resulting ‘net benefits,’ on a sample of over 400,000 Europeans from 22 EU countries. European welfare states, often maligned as ineffective Robin Hood vehicles riddled with Matthew effects, are better characterized as inter-age redistribution machines performing a more important second task rather well: lifecycle consumption smoothing. Social policies serve multiple goals in Europe, but empirically they are neither primarily nor solely responsible for poverty relief and inequality reduction.



New book by Achim Goerres and Pieter Vanhuysse: Global Political Demography - The Politics of Population Change

See the Back Cover Praise on Global Political Demography

  • “Political demography takes a major step forward in this volume, whose global scope is unprecedented. This book is filled with essential findings for all scholars of politics and development.”
    Jack A. Goldstone, Schar School of Policy and Government, George Mason University, USA

  • “This book is a tour de force. Achim Goerres and Pieter Vanhuysse provide the first comprehensive treatment of the interplay of demography and politics around the world over half a century, from silver populations to migration flows, from youth bulges to religions. This is a must-read for everyone concerned about global demographic shifts and the big forces shaping our common future.”
    Tomas Sobotka, Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Global Human Capital, Austria

  • Covering every continent, Global Political Demography performs the vital task of bringing together the world's leading scholars of the politics of population change. They help us make sense of the trends that are shaking the foundations of our modern world'.
    Eric Kaufmann, Birkbeck College, University of London, UK


Carlsberg Foundation Grant: Measuring Intergenerational Justice

Pieter Vanhuysse obtained a Carlsberg Foundation Monograph Fellowship for 2021-2022 to study how to build more sustainable societies.  The aim is theoretically informed but empirical and rigorously policy-oriented: to measure and compare intergenerational justice in policy practice across 32 countries. Contextually, the project will touch on important contemporary questions of policy sustainability, societal resilience and good governance, related to SDGs 1, 4, 10, 13, and 16.
Read more about the project here


Research topics covered in this DaWS research area include:

Global political demography 
Contact: Pieter VanhuysseRobert I. Gal, Isabella Trifan

Intergenerational resource transfers and human capital investments
Contact: Pieter VanhuysseRobert I. Gal, Isabella Trifan

Demographic change and social policies
Contact: Pieter VanhuysseRobert I. Gal

Migration attitudes, causes and consequences
Contact: Romana Careja

Intergenerational solidarity and equity
Contact: Pieter VanhuysseIsabella Trifan, Frederik Pfeiffer

Intergenerational social norms and comparisons
Contact: Pieter VanhuysseRobert I. Gal

Intergenerational mobility
Contact: Pieter Vanhuysse

Intergenerational public policy conflict
Contact: Pieter VanhuysseIsabella Trifan, Frederik Pfeiffer

Age group relevant politics, policies and feedback processes across the lifecycle (ranging from education to pensions)
Contact: Pieter VanhuysseRobert I. Gal, Frederik Pfeiffer

Education policy, family policy, pension policy
Contact: Pieter Vanhuysse

Urban populations, segregation and integration
Contact: Romana Careja, Marta Neves

Life 90+
Contact: Stine Jensen and Klaus Petersen

Family Policy and family change in Denmark
Contact: Klaus Petersen


Read more about our research on populations, generations, and public policies within the ’Societies and Demographic Change’ research area at DaWS here:

• Keynote at the European Demography Forum 2021 on the Population Europe YouTube channel: watch here
• Democracy and Global Political Demography: New York Times article on populism, inequalities, and rising threats to democracy worldwide: here.
ERC Demography, Ethics and Public Policy research profile
Population Europe policy brief on preventing inequalities in aging societies
• Opinion pieces for the World Economic Forum, The Conversation UK, and The Independent on pro-elderly welfare states within a child-oriented Europe
• Summary chapter (2021) on East Central Europe, 1990-2040: The political demography of missed opportunity
• Programmatic chapter (2021) on Political demography as an analytical window on our world
• Oxford HB chapter (2021) on Intergenerational resource transfers as the cement of society
• Book by Goerres and Vanhuysse (2021) on Global Political Demography - The Politics of Population Change
PLOS ONE article on 'Welfare States as Lifecycle Redistribution Machines'
• Journal of Applied Philosophy article on Luck, Hypothetical Insurance, and the Costs of Children
• Research by Vanhuysse, Medgyesi, and Gál on the functions of the welfare state featured in a Weekendavisen article on SU and redistribution across generations.
•  OSE Article on Welfare States as Lifecycle Redistribution Machines


For further information, please contact Professor Pieter Vanhuysse



Lecture Series on Care and Intergenerational Justice

The Societies & Demographic Change  group organizes the DaWS/CPOP Interdisciplinary Lecture Series on Care and Intergenerational Justice

Our Program for Spring 2021:

Robert I Gal (Hungarian Demographic Research Institute and DaWS/CPOP)
Title: “The welfare state as a life-cycle redistribution machine”¨

Ronald D. Lee (UC Berkeley)  Thursday, April 15, 4PM CET
Title: “Population Ageing, Macroeconomic Impacts, and the Care Economy”

Nancy Folbre (University of Massachusetts, Amherst) – Thursday, May 20, 3 PM CET
Title: "The Circular Flow of Care: Spillovers, Interruptions, and Leaks"

Nir Eyal (Center for Population-Level Bioethics, Rutgers University) – Thursday, June 3, 3 PM CET
Title: "Age discrimination and the allocation of Covid-19 vaccines" 


Our Program for Fall 2021:

Joan Costa-Font (Associate Professor in Health Economics, Department of  Health Policy, London School of Economics) – Friday, September 17
Title: "The Strategic Gift Motive: How Intra-Family Donations Influence the Social Contract Between Children and their Ageing Parents"

Ricardo Rodrigues (Deputy Director and Head of Health and Care, The European Centre for Social Policy and Research) – Friday, October 15
Title: "Unequal Care: How Policy and Demographic Ageing are Shaping Care Patters Across Time

Serena Olsaretti (ICREA Research Professor in Political Philosophy, Law Department, Pompeu Fabra University) – Friday, November 26
Title: Children or Migrants as Public Goods?

Axel Gosseries (Hoover Chair in Economic and Social Ethics, Louvain-la-Neuve University) – Friday, December 17
Title: TBD


Last Updated 15.03.2024