Comparing Welfare Regime Changes: Living Standards and the Unequal Life Chances of Different Birth Cohorts

  • Louis ChauvelEmail author
Conference paper


This article focuses on generational sustainability in welfare states and aims to analyse the long-term consequences that the reforms1 carried out by these states have on the different cohorts. It is shown that in the context of conjuncture fluctuation, from the “economic miracle” (1945–1975) to the slowdown in economic growth (1975 until today),2 a gap appeared between those who were exposed to a high rate of youth unemployment and its resulting consequences and those who were not, i.e. generations born before 1955 (the early baby boomers) and the generations born after 1955. This gap between generations would often be denied by the politicians in the public debate. These points of view imply that these generational dynamics could have major consequences for the stability of our welfare states. Furthermore, what we have observed in France in the emergence of strong inter-cohort inequalities at the expense of young adults is not seen in America. In America, the same stressors (economic slowdown and increasing competition) have resulted in a less visible inter-cohort, but a more obvious intra-cohort inequality.


Labour Market Unemployment Rate Welfare State Wage Earner Youth Unemployment 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Attias-Donfut C (2000) Rapports de générations: transferts intrafamiliaux et dynamique macrosociale. Rev Fr Sociol 41(4):643–684Google Scholar
  2. Bell L, Burtless G, Smeeding T, Gornick J (2007) Failure to launch: cross – National trends in the transition to economic Independence. Lis Working Paper, Nr. 456Google Scholar
  3. Brzinsky-Fay C (2007) Lost in transition? Labour market entry sequences of school leavers in Europe. Eur Sociol Rev 23(4):409–422CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Chauvel L (1998) Le destin des générations. Structure sociale et cohortes en France au xxe siècle. Presses Universitaires de France, ParisGoogle Scholar
  5. Chauvel L (2000) Valorisation et dévalorisation sociale des titres. Une comparaison France – Etats – Unis. In: van Zanten A (ed) L’état de l’école. La Découverte, Paris, pp 341–352Google Scholar
  6. Chauvel L (2006) Social generations, life chances and welfare regime sustainability. In: Pepper DC, Peter AH, Bruno P (eds) Changing France. The politics that markets make. Macmillan, Basingstoke, pp 341–352Google Scholar
  7. Chauvel L (2007) Generazioni sociali, prospettive di vita e sostenibilità del welfare. La Riv Polit Soc 4(3):43–72Google Scholar
  8. Easterlin RA (1961) The American baby boom in historical perspective. Am Econ Rev 51(5):869–911Google Scholar
  9. Easterlin RA, Schaeffer CM, Maucunovich DJ (1993) Will the baby boomers be less well off than their parents? Income, wealth, and family circumstances over the life cycle in the United States. Popul Dev Rev 19(3):497–522CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Esping-Andersen G (1990) The tree worlds of welfare capitalism. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  11. Esping-Andersen G (1999) Social foundations of postindustrial economies. Oxford University Press, OxfordCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Esping-Andersen G, Gallie D, Hemerijck A, Myles J (2002) Why we need a new welfare state. Oxford University Press, OxfordCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Ferrera M (1996) The ‘Southern model’ of welfare in social Europe. J Eur Soc Policy 1(6):17–37CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fourastié J (1979) Les Trente Glorieuses ou la révolution invisible. Fayard, ParisGoogle Scholar
  15. Heston A, Summers R, Aten B (2006) Penn World Table Version 6.2. The University of Pennsylvania: Center for International Comparisons of Production, Income and pricesGoogle Scholar
  16. Maddison A (1982) Phases of capitalist development. Oxford university press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  17. Mannheim K (1928) Le problème des générations. Nathan, ParisGoogle Scholar
  18. Mayer KU (2005) Life courses and life chances in a comparative perspective. In: Svallfors S (ed) Analyzing inequality. Life chances and social mobility in comparative perspective. Palo Alto, CA, Stanford University Press, pp 17–55Google Scholar
  19. van de Velde C (2008) Devenir adulte. Sociologie comparée de la jeunesse en Europe. Presses Universitaires de France, ParisGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institut d’Études Politiques de Paris (Sciences-Po Paris)Observatory for Social ChangeParis Cedex 07France

Personalised recommendations