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111 Working Paper

The Age of Welfare: Patronage, Citizenship, and Generational Justice in Social Policy

Jun 24, 2024 Julia Lynch


Welfare states’ redistribution of resources across classes, occupations, and genders is the subject of intensive scholarly analysis. Yet we know very little about how and why welfare states treat different age groups differently. This article demonstrates that seniors’ demand for welfare does not determine age orientation. Rather, the “age of welfare” is a largely unintended consequence of the interaction between the structure of social policies and the way that politicians use these programs to compete for votes. An implication for the policy feedback literature is that constituency demand may be less important than the unintended consequences of welfare state institutions.