9th Conference European Sociological Association

RS15 Rethinking intergenerational transmission of inequalities

2009-09-04 09:00:00 2009-09-04 10:30:00 Friday, 4 September 09:00 - 10:30 Changing Patterns of Inequalities Building II, C6.09

The income situation of Europe's elderly. A national, an intermediary and a European perspective

A growing stream in the poverty literature tries to meet the challenge posed by the "European society versus European societies" debate. This is translated into a debate about the usefulness of a Europe-wide poverty line as compared to a purely national one. Until now, the latter approach has largely been predominant due to the assumption that poverty is a relative phenomenon which should be evaluated by referring to the situation of the broader, national society. The former approach does not necessarily question the relative character of poverty, but states that the proper frame of reference is the wider European society, and not the national one. However, the literature remains rather inconclusive from both a theoretical and an empirical point of view as to which perspective is most appropriate for the present situation. Some claim that poverty should continue to be measured by referring to a strictly national context, while others argue that, at least, this perspective should be enriched by also using a Europe-wide poverty threshold. Maybe, some intermediary position between a strictly European and a strictly national frame of reference represents most closely the experience of Europe's citizens. However, it is not very clear how such an intermediary perspective should be operationalised - especially with regard to the study of specific groups in society. In this paper, I therefore analyse the elderly's income situation from various perspectives while exploring different methods of operationalising the intermediary position. For the analysis, the EU-SILC dataset is used. This dataset includes cross-nationally comparable data for 25 member states of the EU. The first part of the paper reviews the debate on the most appropriate level of income analysis in general and poverty analysis in particular. In the second part, the income situation of the elderly from both a purely national and a strictly European perspective is analysed. In the last part of the paper, previous results are contrasted with an analysis from an intermediary point of view.