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Intergenerational Relations

Intergenerational resource transfers: Pro-Elderly Welfare States within Child Oriented Societies.

With demographers Robert Gal and Lili Vargha, Pieter Vanhuysse has asked what resources generations give each other. From different angles, the latter two papers both argue that notwithstanding decades of ‘social investment states’ rhetoric, we actually observe surprisingly little state investment in young people. Looking at public policies alone offers an incomplete and biased picture of intergenerational transfers. It’s a proverbial case of looking for a lost car key only where the streetlight shines at night. The reason is a key asymmetry in modern societies. Working-age people pay taxes and social security contributions to institutionalize care for older persons as a generation. But they invest substantial private resources (money and time) to raise their own children, often with large social returns. Once one also incorporates these family resources, counter intuitive and radically different conclusions follow. Children actually receive more than twice as many per-capita resources as older persons in Europe – but not from policies. We live in pro-elderly welfare states within child-oriented societies.
A key  public policy question is therefore: why do states not take a greater role in helping families raise children? Children are also public goods. Their contributions will later benefit all of society, including non-parents. Since children are also ever scarcer in aging societies, we ask: why has child investment not been socialized much more than we can observe in reality? Robert Gal and I plan to keep investigating these questions and their normative implications in the near future. 

Read opinion pieces for the World Economic Forum  and The Independent  on pro-elderly welfare states within a child-oriented Europe

Pieter Vanhuysse


Better to grow up poor in a rich place? Neighbourhood deprivation, subjective wellbeing and the social and family lives of English teenagers

Does relative socio-economic deprivation within the neigbourhood negatively affect the lives of young teenagers? We use the 2011-2016 Understanding Society youth samples and the 2015 Index of Multiple Deprivation to explore this question on a sample of over 1800 13-to-15-year-olds living in social housing in England.  As social housing allocation procedures in England provide a useful form of residential quasi-randomisation, studying only teenagers who have lived in the same social housing estate for the last five years allows us to reduce problems of the endogeneity of neighbourhood selection choice. We explore altogether twelve dimensions of teenagers’ lives, regarding their (a) general self-perception of leading a bad life, (b) conflictual family interactions with their mother and their brothers and sisters, and (c) unhappy social interactions with their peers. We can soundly reject the relative deprivation hypothesis. Living in social housing within richer neighbourhoods does not negatively affect either teenagers’ general perceptions of their life or their family interactions with their mothers and brothers and sisters. And it actually makes them less, not more, likely to feel sick, to be bullied and feel unappreciated by their peers, to feel socially very isolated, and to often get angry and lose their temper.

Joint work of Franco Bonomi Bezzo, and Pieter Vanhuysse.


Pieter Vanhuysse



Last Updated 26.06.2020