Topic: Intergenerational Inequality and the Intergenerational State
Authors: James Mahmud Rice, Jeromey B. Temple, and Peter F. McDonald
Presenter: James Mahmud Rice, CEPAR, The University of Melbourne
Abstract: Inequality between generations is a central feature of human societies. Moreover, many institutions have developed within human societies that mould and shape intergenerational inequality, including the state. Nevertheless, intergenerational inequality remains ill-defined as a concept and is rarely directly measured empirically. This article examines intergenerational inequality - in particular, intergenerational inequality in income. In order to provide greater definition to the concept of intergenerational inequality, the article introduces a new measure of intergenerational inequality: the I index. With this new index added to its methodological toolkit, the article examines the empirical evidence on intergenerational inequality in income, as well as how the state works to alter intergenerational inequality through the redistributive effect of public transfers. The empirical evidence examined is drawn from the recently developed Australian National Transfer Accounts, which include data on the incomes and public transfers paid and received by different ages and generations in Australia during the 28-year time period between 1981-82 and 2009-10. The analyses presented suggest that there are substantial inequalities in the incomes received by different generations, with earlier generations generally receiving less income in real terms over their lifetimes than later generations. As the state has operated through time - receiving public transfers from some individuals and paying public transfers to others - it has worked to increase intergenerational inequality. This implies that the state has worked to decrease the incomes of earlier generations relative to those of later generations. In this way, the state could be described as exhibiting a bias in favour of later generations.
James Mahmud Rice is a sociologist who works at the intersection of sociology, economics, and political science. His work focuses on inequalities in the distribution of economic resources such as income and time and how private and public conventions and institutions shape these inequalities. His co-authored book, Discretionary Time: A New Measure of Freedom, was awarded the 2009 Stein Rokkan Prize for Comparative Social Science Research by the International Science Council, the European Consortium for Political Research, and the University of Bergen. Other work has appeared in journals such as the British Journal of Sociology, the Journal of Public Policy, Perspectives on Politics, Science, and Social Indicators Research, as well as in reports for Australian government departments. He has held research positions at the Australian National University and the University of New South Wales and is currently working as a research consultant while completing a doctorate at the University of Melbourne.