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Controversy 8 Should Age or Need Be the Basis for Entitlement? (c) 2011, SAGE Publications, Inc. Generational Equity • Two different meanings of generation: o (1) an age specific group, such as “older adults” or “children under age 18” o Or, (2) a historical cohort consisting of a group of people born in the same year or in a certain period (e.g., those who experienced the Great Depression or World War II) • Four issues underlie generational equity: 1.Questions about the allocation of resources between older adults and children 2.Concerns about large government deficits 3.Controversies over rationing health care resources 4.Questions about the fairness of how Social Security is financed (c) 2011, SAGE Publications, Inc. Poverty Among the Old • Over the past 30 years, there has been a large reduction in poverty rates among the older adults in the United States o Although the most gains in income for people were in the 1960s and 1970s • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)—a cash benefit program for the older poor, blind, and disabled o SSI is a means-tested program—it is only available if your income and assets fall below a designated range (c) 2011, SAGE Publications, Inc. Poverty Among Children and Young People • International comparison shows that U.S. poverty rates among children are higher than every other industrial nation in the world This high poverty rate may be caused by family structure, unemployment, and/or declining wages o Some people also blame the declining well-being of children on the voting power of older adults o Families with children today form a smaller part of the electorate than in the past (c) 2011, SAGE Publications, Inc. Taxation and Power • The U.S.’s tax system has far-reaching impacts on different age groups and cohorts • Many “tax breaks,” or “tax expenditures,” go disproportionately to older people with higher incomes o The aged poor get only 2% of the benefits from tax breaks • Generational accounting—analyzes how government tax and spending policies affect different cohorts o Adds up all the taxes paid to federal, state, and local governments over a lifetime, then subtracts benefits received such as Social Security, Medicare, and schooling • Must distinguish between the notion of conflict between generations and competition for different public programs (c) 2011, SAGE Publications, Inc. The Least-Advantaged Older Adults • How do we define “least-advantaged” among older adults? Possible answers include the following: o o o o o o o The entire older population People above a certain age Elders in minority ethnic groups Older women Older adults living in rural or inner-city areas The physically or mentally frail Older people who are vulnerable to abuse or neglect (c) 2011, SAGE Publications, Inc. The Least-Advantaged Older Adults (cont.) • Today there are many people in their 60s and 70s who are healthy and active o The so-called well-derly cause some people to argue that disability and frailty, not chronological age, should be the basis of access to services • Socioeconomic Status (SES)—a term used by sociologists to describe what is often known as “social class” • Cumulative disadvantage—lower SES over the life course tends to produce cumulative disadvantage, which is perpetuated in old age (c) 2011, SAGE Publications, Inc. The Targeting Debate • Cost-sharing—an approach that combines elements of both means testing and taxation • The Older Americans Act (OAA) directs the agingservice network to target its services to: o “Individuals with the greatest economic or social needs, with particular attention to low-income minority individuals” • But there is still debate over how universal programs such as the OAA and Social Security can properly give preference to some needy groups (c) 2011, SAGE Publications, Inc. Reading 34: Growing Older Thurow makes some strong recommendations about generational equity in “Growing Older.” What are these recommendations and how do you respond to them? (c) 2011, SAGE Publications, Inc. Reading 35: Will America Grow Up Before It Grows Old? What does Peterson mean when he asks the question, “Will America grow up before it grows old?” To his way of thinking about generational equity, what will the indicators be that America has “grown up”? (c) 2011, SAGE Publications, Inc. Reading 36: “Generational Equity” and the New Victim Blaming Minkler takes on the generational equity debate from a critical standpoint, one that sees it as socially constructed and dangerous. What are some of the central points in her argument? (c) 2011, SAGE Publications, Inc. Reading 37: The Generational Equity Debate The authors of this reading contrast two ways of framing the debate regarding public policy toward older adults—the “generational equity frame” and the “generational interdependence frame.” What are the key assertions of these two frames? What side do you come down on? (c) 2011, SAGE Publications, Inc.