Ties That Bind: The Interdependence of Generations

Ties That Bind: The Interdependence of Generations

Ties That Bind: The Interdependence of Generations

Ties That Bind: The Interdependence of Generations

Excerpt

To many of us who had a hand in its preparation, this report merely documents the obvious. That the report is nevertheless needed cheers us not at all, for the controversy that motivated it is far more than a passing challenge to accepted wisdom. Cries of "intergenerational inequity" somehow violate the sense of social communion that most of us in this country absorbed with our baby food, and the implications are profoundly troubling.

What this report seeks to do primarily is to remind us of our common stake in intergenerational transfers. We state the case generally in chapter 1. Then, as background for the rest of the report, in chapter 2 we identify a few of the most important demographic trends related to the aging of America, as well as some of the key indicators of the economic status and health of the elderly. We describe the great diversity that exists among the elderly, review population trends, and note that choices made today will inevitably shape the well-being of our aging society tomorrow.

The three chapters that follow provide examples of the common stake. Chapter 3 shows the common stake in a private intergenerational transfer--the giving and receiving of care within the context of the family, including the interdependence of generations within the family and the reciprocal nature of exchanges that occur over the course of life. Even though care-giving is principally the family's function, we suggest a need for social policies that support and enhance the family's ability to give. Chapter 4 shows the common stake in an intergenerational transfer based on a public policy: Social Security. It discusses why a system built on social insurance principles allows much of the income support for the elderly to take place outside the family--an arrangement, judging from opinion polls, strongly preferred by the . . .

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