age inequalities

social inequalities relating to age

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social construction and social age

  • social construction is created by society of how society percieves things and there is a variety between cultures
  • Giddens argues that we should investigate social age instead of chronological age, for example the norms, values and roles associated with chronological age in particular societies at particular times
  • Vincent- those over 65 in Britain have very little access to the labour market and suffer high levels of poverty, however at the same time there are some very wealthy pensioners
  • Pilcher 1995- we need to consider 3 things when studying age, Biological (appearence and physical capabilities change over time), Social interpretation (different socieites interpret capabilities and expectations of how people of differing ages are 'supposed to behave'), cohort/generations (a cohort or generation will tend to experience the same historical events and share the same opportunities and barriers)
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the demographic timebomb

  • The demographic timebomb is where in society there are fewer younger wokers which means fewer taxes to pay for pensions for an increasing number of elderly people.

Problems for society caused by an aging population:

  • more strain on public services
  • more expenditure for the government
  • workforce- more carers
  • mental health issues on increase
  • Bradley 1996- refers to age as the neglected dimension of inequality as in industrial societies the elderly are seen as lacking any means of contributing fully and are excluded from full involvement in society.
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  • In 2008, help the aged fopund that 33% of pensioners were living in poverty. This then has a negative effect on health and 1 in 4 pensioners that were living in poverty suffered illness as a direct result
  • Davidson- women and ethnic minority groups are least likely to have access to private company pensions. 
  • Reasons for this could be due to
  • lower pay
  • glass ceiling/ concrete ceiling
  • less likely to work for a private company or work at all
  • Scase and Scade 2000- the elderly can be divided into 2 groups; the affluent middle class ex professionals and thiose who are on or close to the breadline, who are usually forced to work beyond retirement age in order to avoid severe poverty
  • Ray et al 2006- those at the top end of the socio-economic ladder often ignore the retirement age and carry on working
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  • ageism- negatively stereotyping and dicriminating against people bcause of their age 
  • Greengross, instiutional ageism- refers to age barrieres set by the state leading to the elderly being bared from certain civic duties, e.g. jury service. some elderly people may be denied operations ect because of NHS budget restrictions. The NHS budget restrictions mean that allocation of funds is not universal or equal and a criteria has to be met which includes life expectancy.
  • Ray- older workers are discriminated against by their employers, as they get questioned over their competance and older people have less chance of getting loans or credit. 
  • Carrigan and Szmigin 2000- the advertising industry either use negative stereotypes of the elderly or completely ignores the group
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inequalities for the young

  • the government has estimated the 5 million children live in poverty in the UK
  • young people of a working age are; disadvantaged by low wages (minimum wage for over 18 is £5.93), student loans and ineligibility for state benefits
  • in 2001- unemplyment rate for under 25's was over 20%
  • Mayhew et al- most crime commited is by young males from poorer backgrounds
  • Campbell- states that young women may use pregnancy as a way to gain adult status as all other options are closed to them
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Functionalism and age inequalitites

  • Parsons- different roles associated with age are vital for the smooth running of society. In childhood, we are socialised onto norms and values, in adolescence, we develop independance from our parents
  • Disengagment theory- the elderly are actively removing themselves from their previous roles so that the next generation can take over

criticisms of Parsons:

  • Postmodernists- age differences are breaking down
  • Feminists- criticise Parsons for assuming that all women are socialised into the mother/housewife role
  • Conflict theorists- Parsons ignores the conflict and exploitation involved in relationships between age groups
  • The rebellion of the youth is more about actively seeking and creating subcultures rather than that they are passively acting out their expected transition roles
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Marxist explanations for inequalities

  • Vincent 2006- age is a form of stratification but it must be discussed in conjunction with class, gender and ethnicity- Age inequalities are not experienced in the same way in all societies and it is most severe in societies that focus on the importance of private property
  • As capitalist/industrial society developed, restrictions relating to work age became important- work provides people with status and income
  • The elderly have low status because they don't work- they are often seen as a burden. 
  • youth= a cheap pool of labour- low wages ensured by the competition for jobs
  • Vincent uses the position of old people to illustrate his point. He says that the restrictions/retirement age have been imposed to create a reserved army of labour and many over 65 are capable of working- a low retirement age decreases unemployment. as a result, the elderly are suffering from material deprivation and elderly women are more likely to be poor then other groups
  • The elderly are ignored because hey are economically unattractive- they have limited disposable income to spend on consumer goods.
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Weberian views on age inequality

  • Mckingsley- Old age is a trigger to loss of status
  • Parkin, negatively privileged- they have lost their position in the labour market as they are kept out by the younger generation in the same way that the white majority exclude ethnic minorities
  • both Marxists and Weberian theories have been criticised because they give explanations that could be used to explain inequalities of many social groups, not just age.
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Postmodern theories

  • Pilcher- modernity and industrialisation are responsible for the low status of both young and old as they have both been excluded from the workplace.
  • boundaries are becoming blurred and people are not acting in the way they are expected to. stages in life can no longer be clearly identified, i.e your only as old as you feel and 50 is the new 40
  • Pilcher- age equality does exist it is just becoming less rigid.
  • Featherstone and Hepworth- support Pilcher- changes are even more profound- children and adults are becoming more alike as it is impossible to segregate children from the adult world in a media saturated society
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thank you so much! x


Good powerpoint. Do you mean poverty on your third slide?


Fab summary of the topic of age and inequality which is concise and comprehensive.

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