Understanding old-age inequality: the impact of work, family and health trajectories on post-retirement economic, social and psychological well-being across Europe

The goal of this project is to better understand inequality in old age, which might be increasing as a result of the policies to promote longer working lives. To reach this goal, the project will examine how and to what extent inequality in work, family and health trajectories over the pre-retirement life course influences inequality in retirement transitions and inequality in post-retirement economic, social and psychological well-being. It will also study how and to what extent labor market, pension and welfare policies aggravate or cushion the impact of work, family and health trajectories on old-age inequality.

The project will combine theoretical insights derived from the life course perspective, namely the notion of path dependency, the cumulative (dis)advantage mechanism and the principle of agency, to arrive at new and innovative hypotheses that will be tested by applying advanced analysis techniques to high-quality panel and retrospective SHARE(LIFE) data of more than 90,000 older people in 29 countries.

This project will lead to comprehensive and up-to-date knowledge on inequality between older workers and retirees across Europe by examining more life course domains, more retirement aspects, more well-being dimensions, more countries and more national policies than previous studies. As such, the project will generate comprehensive empirical insights into the drivers of old-age inequality, which is highly relevant for future policy design. The findings of this project will therefore be of importance to a large number of stakeholders, including national governments, labor unions, employers’ organizations, pension funds, insurance companies and the general public.

This project is funded and carried out under the auspices of Instituut Gak.

Netspar, Network for Studies on Pensions, Aging and Retirement, is a thinktank and knowledge network. Netspar is dedicated to promoting a wider understanding of the economic and social implications of pensions, aging and retirement in the Netherlands and Europe.


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