Pro-Elderly Welfare States within Child-Oriented Societies

Robert Gal, Pieter Vanhuysse, Lili Vargha

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Families and policies both are main vehicles of intergenerational transfers. Working-age people are net contributors; children and older persons net beneficiaries. However, there is an asymmetry in socialization. Working-age people pay taxes and social security contributions to institutionalize care for older persons as a generation, but invest private resources to raise their own children, often with large social returns. This results in asymmetric statistical visibility. Elderly transfers are near-fully observed in National Accounts; those to children much less. Analysing ten European societies, we employ National Transfer Accounts to include public and private transfers, and National Time Transfer Accounts to value unpaid household labour. All three transfer channels combined, children receive more than twice as many per-capita resources as older persons. Europe is a continent of elderly-oriented welfare states and strongly child-oriented parents. Since children are ever-scarcer public goods in aging societies, why has investment in them not been socialized more?
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of European Public Policy
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)944-958
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • social under-investment
  • children-as-public-goods
  • intergenerational transfers
  • valuing time
  • household economy
  • National Transfer Accounts
  • human capital investment


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