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Charity or entitlement? Generational habitus and the welfare state among older people in North-east England

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Suzanne Moffatt


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Current UK policies aimed at reducing pensioner poverty involve targeting those in greatest need by supplementing their incomes with means-tested welfare benefits. It is believed that such policies provide more resources for those in greatest need. However, non-uptake of state welfare benefits by many older UK citizens exacerbates the widening income gap between the richest and poorest pensioners. We examine the underlying beliefs and discourses among those currently in retirement who lived through a time when welfare programmes had more of a putative abstract universalism than is now the case. Based on the narratives of people aged over 60 in North-east England, we show how the collective forces of structure and individual practice in relation to welfare accumulate over a lifetime and influence the ways in which people interact with the welfare system in later life. We find that the reasons for the apparent lack of agency among older people in relation to claiming benefit entitlements are linked to the particular social, economic and political circumstances which have prevailed at various points prior to and since the inception of the UK welfare state. We argue that the failure of some older citizens to operate as citizen consumers can be conceptualized in terms of a generational welfare 'habitus', the consequences of which are likely to exacerbate inequalities in later life. © 2007 The Author(s) Journal Compilation © 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Moffatt S, Higgs P

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Social Policy and Administration

Year: 2007

Volume: 41

Issue: 5

Pages: 449-464

ISSN (print): 0144-5596

ISSN (electronic): 1467-9515

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9515.2007.00567.x


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