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Generational Justice, Generational Habitus and the ‘Problem’ of the Baby Boomers

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Challenges of Aging

Abstract

The global economic recession has seen the re-emergence of a debate about the lack of generational justice in the UK (Beckett, 2010; Howker and Malik, 2010; Willetts, 2010). The idea that a form of generational capture has been effected by cohorts from the post-war baby boom has been widely amplified in the British mass media as austerity has been accompanied by static wages and rapidly rising house prices, all of which affect the young much more than the old. While never entirely absent from policy debates this renewed focus on generation is increasingly framed around issues of the perceived unfairness in the distribution of welfare resources under the circumstances of a recession-imposed financial austerity. Despite the definitional debates of what constitutes a generation, a general agreement has been reached that those cohorts associated with the ‘baby booms’ and ‘baby bulges’ of the mid-twentieth century constitute the demographic center of the storm. Those cohorts who grew up in post-war Britain have not only benefited from the expansion of educational opportunities and relatively stable employment opportunities but they have also experienced higher levels of income and material comfort than previous cohorts (Harkin and Huber, 2004). For the cohorts following behind them the world looks considerably less friendly, so unfriendly that some commentators have argued that the advantages of present-day retirees can only be sustained at the expense of younger cohorts whose education, employment and social rights are being restricted as British society becomes less redistributive (Kuhnle, 1999). Such a view echoes prognoses made by earlier commentators (Preston, 1984; Thomson, 1989) who predicted growing intergenerational conflict a quarter of a century ago.

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© 2015 Paul Higgs and Chris Gilleard

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Higgs, P., Gilleard, C. (2015). Generational Justice, Generational Habitus and the ‘Problem’ of the Baby Boomers. In: Torp, C. (eds) Challenges of Aging. Palgrave Macmillan, London. https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137283177_13

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