Age and Inequality: Diverse Pathways through Later Life

Age and Inequality: Diverse Pathways through Later Life

Age and Inequality: Diverse Pathways through Later Life

Age and Inequality: Diverse Pathways through Later Life

Synopsis

In the United States, older populations exhibit the highest levels of economic inequality of any age group. Examining the structural and individual bases of inequality and ageing in that country, this work focuses especially on recent decades.

Excerpt

This volume examines the structural and individual processes that differentiate the life course of men and women and yield patterns of inequality in adulthood and old age. Demographic, economic, and political trends have led to the increased differentiation of the life course of men and women. Processes of age structuring and gender structuring of the life course have produced mixed patterns of uniformity and diversity in life transition schedules. Meanwhile age structures and gender structures are themselves being transformed by global processes associated with population aging, economic restructuring, and welfare state reorganization. Master trends in the United States and other industrial countries have developed, and they include the following: (1) an increase in inequality within and across age-groups; (2) the shortening of men's work lives; (3) the lengthening of women's work lives; (4) diverse family arrangements and schedules; (5) earlier retirement of some segments of the workforce; (6) the synchronization of joint retirement among older couples; and (7) the feminization of poverty into late life. These patterns are observable across societies, with some systematic variations. Our primary focus is on changes in life course patterns over recent decades in the United States. However, strategic comparisons of the United States with other Western countries are also presented.

Chapter 1 introduces these master trends. Aging and inequality are interrelated in complex ways. On the one hand, age is a relatively enduring principle of stratification in developed countries. Age serves to allocate differential government resources to the young and the old. It is also an efficient mechanism for setting timetables in the workplace. Access to employee benefits that include pensions, disability insurance, and some kinds of health insurance are frequently tied to age. Age is also highly correlated with entry into and exit from major life statuses related to schooling, work, family formation, and dissolution, empty nest, and retirement.

On the other hand, recent decades are notable for the decreasing importance of age for the conduct of more and more social roles. The age at which marriage, full-time work, childbearing, and retirement begin, and . . .

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