Advanced Search
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

Can we reform the welfare in times of grey majorities? The myth of an electoral opposition between younger and older voters in Germany


Author Info

  • Goerres, Achim
Registered author(s):


    Is there an antagonism between young and old in the electoral arena that could lead to the obstruction of welfare-state reforms? This article argues that this notion is a myth and lacks empirical evidence for the case of Germany. It is true that (a) there are imminent majorities of voters aged 50 and older; (b) older voters benefit from many welfare state programs and (c) life-cycle interests shape some attitudes towards single public policies. However, these facts alone do not represent an antagonism between young and old in the electoral arena. Firstly, differences in party preferences between age groups are due to generational effects associated with early political socialization. Secondly, life-cycle interests do not shape the German party competition because age is not a political division line (cleavage). Young age/old age is only a transitional boundary that all of us aspire to cross, meaning that material old-age interests are important to everyone. Finally, grey interests parties are notoriously weak and try to become parties for the interests of all age groups. -- Gibt es bei Wahlen einen Interessensgegensatz zwischen Jung und Alt, der wohlfahrtsstaatliche Reformen erschweren könnte? Der vorliegende Beitrag entlarvt diese Vorstellung als einen Mythos, für den es im deutschen Fall keine empirische Evidenz gibt. Es ist richtig, (a) dass es in Deutschland bald Mehrheiten von Wählerinnen und Wählern geben wird, die 50 Jahre und älter sind, (b) dass ältere Wähler von vielen wohlfahrtsstaatlichen Programmen profitieren und (c) dass durch den Lebenszyklus gesteuerte Interessen die Einstellungen zu einzelnen Policies formen. Doch diese Ergebnisse stellen noch keinen Gegensatz zwischen Jung und Alt in der Wahlarena dar. Erstens gehen die unterschiedlichen Wahlergebnisse für einzelne Altersgruppen auf Gegensätze zwischen Generationen zurück, die in früher politischer Sozialisation begründet sind. Zweitens beeinflussen die durch den Lebenszyklus definierten Interessen nicht den deutschen Parteienwettbewerb, weil Alter nicht das Potenzial für eine politische Konfliktlinie (cleavage) hat. Die Kategorien Jung und Alt sind nur durch eine durchlässige Grenze voneinander getrennt, die alle Individuen zu überschreiten hoffen. Somit sind auch die materiellen Interessen älterer Menschen für alle wichtig. Drittens sind alle Seniorenparteien schwach und versuchen sich als Parteien aller Altersgruppen neu zu profilieren.

    Download Info

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies in its series MPIfG Working Paper with number 07/5.

    as in new window
    Date of creation: 2007
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:zbw:mpifgw:075

    Contact details of provider:
    Postal: Paulstr. 3, 50676 Köln
    Phone: + 49 (0) 221-2767-0
    Web page:
    More information through EDIRC

    Related research



    References listed on IDEAS
    Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
    as in new window
    1. Sinn, Hans-Werner & Uebelmesser, Silke, 2003. "Pensions and the path to gerontocracy in Germany," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 19(1), pages 153-158, March.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)



    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.


    Access and download statistics


    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:zbw:mpifgw:075. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (ZBW - German National Library of Economics).

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.