Ageing, Intergenerational Relations and the Life Course
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Southampton
Unit of AssessmentSocial Work and Social Policy
Summary Impact TypeSocietal
Research Subject Area(s)
Medical and Health Sciences: Public Health and Health Services
Studies In Human Society: Policy and Administration, Sociology
Summary of the impact
Research by the University of Southampton into ageing, intergenerational
relations and the life course has influenced policy debate and practice at
national and international levels, highlighting the importance of adapting
social policy to take account of the changing shape of the life course.
Empirical research evidencing the impact of earlier life course events on
women's resources in later life informed the UN Committee on the
Elimination of Discrimination against Women. Other research has informed
the policy work of the European Commission, the UN Economic Commission for
Europe and national and local governments, potentially affecting the lives
of millions of people.
Ageing, and its impact on individuals and society, is a key issue for
social and policy agendas. Increasing longevity, changes in patterns of
family formation, family dissolution and labour force participation are
altering the shape of the life course. This has implications for all areas
of social policy, but especially those concerned with promoting work-life
balance and supporting family care. Jane Falkingham, Professor of
Demography & International Social Policy (since 2002) and Director of
the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Centre for Population
Change (CPC) (since 2009), and Maria Evandrou, Professor of Gerontology
and founding Director of the Centre for Research on Ageing (CRA) (since
2005), and their teams at the University of Southampton have conducted
research towards improving our understanding of the social policy
implications of population ageing in the UK and internationally. In
particular, this research has evidenced a) the importance of the life
course in determining outcomes in later life and b) the pressing need to
adapt social policy to the changes in the life course that are taking
place across cohorts. The team's research has also focussed attention on
the need to take into account gender differences in the life course and
their associated inequalities.
In two linked papers, published in the Journal of Social Policy [3.1]
and the Journal of European Social Policy [3.2], Evandrou and
Falkingham, with their co-authors Tom Sefton (Research Fellow employed on
the Nuffield Foundation grant 2005-2007 [G1]; now working outside
academia) and Athina Vlachantoni (Senior Lecturer in Gerontology,
University of Southampton), provided empirical evidence of the
relationship between the family and work histories of older women and
their personal incomes in later life, in the UK, Germany and Sweden.
Comparison of three countries with different welfare regimes and pension
systems facilitated improved understanding of the interaction between the
life course, pension system and women's incomes in later life. The
research also highlighted the trade-offs in policy design between two
objectives: rewarding work, and protecting the most vulnerable, such as
carers, long-term disabled and unemployed.
A body of work by Evandrou and Falkingham over the last decade has
investigated changes in the demographic and socio-economic experiences
across cohorts, drawing attention to the fact that the characteristics and
needs of tomorrow's elders were likely to be very different to those of
today's older population. For example, empirical analysis underlined the
significant diversity amongst the 1960s baby boomers in terms of their
patterns of family formation and dissolution, alerting policy planners to
a likely `informal care gap' [3.3, G2].
From 2010 this line of enquiry was extended to investigate patterns of
living arrangements across the life course. Research on changes in the
living arrangements of young men and women over the past 20 years
highlighted the role that social policies play in influencing the ability
of young adults' to maintain residential independence [3.4]. The
research team also explored the under- researched phase of mid-life using
data from the General Household Survey (1984-2007) and the British
Household Panel Survey to demonstrate that living alone in mid-life is on
the rise, with implications for care networks in later life [3.5,
References to the research
3.1 Sefton, T., Evandrou, M. and Falkingham, J. (2011) Family
Ties: Women's Work and Family Histories and their Association with Incomes
in Later Life in the UK. Journal of Social Policy, 40(1): 41-69.
3.2 Sefton, T., Evandrou, M., Falkingham, J. and Vlachantoni, A.
(2011) The relationship between women's work histories and incomes in
later life in the UK, US and West Germany. Journal of European Social
Policy, 21, (1), 20-36.
3.3 Evandrou, M. and Falkingham, J. (2006) Will the baby-boomers
be better off than their parents in retirement? In, Vincent, J.A.,
Phillipson, C.R. and Downs, M. (eds.) The Futures of Old Age.
London, Sage Publications, 90-102.
3.4 Stone, J., Berrington, A. and Falkingham, J. (2011), `The
changing determinants of UK young adults' living arrangements', Demographic
Research, 25: 629-666.
3.5 Demey, D. Berrington, A. Evandrou, M. and Falkingham, J.
(2011) `The changing demography of mid-life, from the 1980s to the 2000s'
Population Trends 145: 16-34.
3.6 Demey, D., Berrington, A., Evandrou, M. and Falkingham, J.
(2013) 'Pathways into living alone in mid-life: Diversity and policy
implications'. Advances in Life Course Research, 18(3):161-174.
G1.Evandrou (PI), Falkingham, Johnson, and Rake Lifetime events
and the incomes of the older population in the British, German, Swedish
and American welfare states. Nuffield Foundation, 2004-2007, £152,308.
(Awarded whilst Evandrou was at Kings College London, but partially moved
to Southampton when she took up her appointment in mid-2005).
G2.Falkingham (PI), Evandrou, Johnson, Rake, ESRC Research Group:
Simulating Social Policy for an Ageing Society, 11/1999-10/2005, £755,000
(FEC). (Awarded whilst Falkingham was at London School of Economics, but
partially moved to Southampton when she took up her appointment in
G3.Falkingham (PI), Evandrou, Boyle and Heath. Centre for
Population Change, ESRC, 2009-2013, £6,497,344 FEC.
Details of the impact
As a direct result of their research, members of CPC and CRA have engaged
with leading international, national and local policymakers throughout the
impact assessment period, with their research findings influencing policy
debate and informing policy design at all levels.
In summer of 2009, Evandrou and Falkingham's research (ref [3.1],
then available as a working paper) was selected by Elizabeth Sclater, an
advisor to the UK Equality and Human Rights Commission, for submission as
evidence to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against
Women (CEDAW) and "provided valuable reference material" [5.1]
towards the development of the General Recommendation No. 27 on Older
This research, showing that the individual's employment history affects
income in later life, and that lower retirement income was linked with
fewer years of employment history, was also cited by the Australian
Government's key research body in the area of family wellbeing, the
Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS), in their 2012 report on `Ageing
parent carers of people with a disability' (5.3), and was used to
argue the need for a carers pension for Australia's 490,000 carers
providing unpaid assistance to others with a severe or profound level of
In 2009, CPC was a partner in a successful bid to the European Commission
to establish a knowledge exchange platform to promote understanding of
demographic change in Europe [5.4]. Since then, members of CPC
have actively participated in a series of public engagement events
organised by Population Europe (a network of leading European
research centres supported by the European Commission) giving
presentations at meetings between influential decision-makers and eminent
scholars [5.5]. For example, in October 2010 Falkingham gave a
keynote address at a closed meeting for members of the European
Parliament, the Chair of the European Economic and Social Committee and
the Head of Social and Demographic Analysis for the Directorate-General
(DG) for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion. This led in January
2011 to the `Population & Policy Compact' Europe's Citizens should
have a Choice: Toward a New Policy of Life-Course Flexibility' [5.6]
co-authored by Falkingham and advocating the adoption of policies to
support more flexible work and better work-life balance. This was
supplemented in September 2011 with the `Demographic Insights' paper Working
Life & Retirement - a short briefing for the media based on an
interview with Jane Falkingham [5.6]. In May 2012, Falkingham gave
the opening address at a Population Europe Conference held at the
Presidential Palace, Warsaw, attended by the President and the Polish
Minister of Social Protection [5.5]. Funding for Population Europe
from the EC has since been renewed, with Jane Falkingham forming part of
the four person bid drafting team (along with French, Dutch and German
colleagues) for both grants.
The weight of the impact of CPC's ongoing research in informing policy
debate at the European level is corroborated by Ettore Marchetti, of the
DG for Employment:
'Jane's team has helped us highlight the importance of adapting social
policy to take account of recent demographic changes, particularly the
changing shape of the life course across cohorts as well as gender
inequalities. This type of research is important in supporting the
European Commission, the Member States as well as their social partners
meet the challenge of an ageing population and promoting solidarity
between generations.' [5.7]
In September 2012, Falkingham was invited to give a keynote address at
the Researcher Forum, UN Economic Commission for Europe Conference on
Ageing, Vienna. A subsequent e-mail from Alexandre Sidorenko, former head
of UN Ageing programme and conference organiser, said:
`... the Centre for Research on Ageing has provided valuable insights
into the changing shape of the life course and the critical role played
by both the family and social policy in ensuring quality of life in old
age. Prof Falkingham's recent keynote address ... highlighted the
importance of social policy adapting to a changing life course and the
necessity of designing social policy that delivers across the life
course. Her recommendations were reflected in the subsequent Research
Forum's Statement presented during the Ministerial Conference.' [5.8]
Since 2009, members of CPC have undertaken a range of public engagement
activities to influence policy thinking nationally. In November 2012
research on changes in the living arrangements of young men and women,
highlighting the role that social policies play in influencing the ability
of young adults to maintain residential independence [3.4], was
presented to a policy audience of key stakeholders at grassroots, local
and national government levels at the Local Government Association [5.9].
The research was widely reported in the national media and on twitter, as
was the research on mid-life [5.10]. Subsequently Falkingham has
made CPC/CRA research insights on demographic changes accessible to the
public through regular media contributions including 'More or Less'
(broadcast on Radio 4 and the World Service) Radio 4's The World
Tonight and BBC and Channel 4 News. The research has also
been quoted in The Guardian, The Independent, The
Daily Telegraph and BBC News websites [5.10].
By directly engaging with international, national and local policy
makers, practitioners, members of the UoA have ensured that CPC and CRA
research has achieved significant reach and has informed and shaped policy
discussion and debate at all levels.
Sources to corroborate the impact
5.1 Email extracts from Executive Officer, Older Women's Network
(OWN) and advisor to the UK Equality and Human Rights Commission, 15 July
2009 and 18 August 2013. (full text of emails available upon request)
"I would be grateful if you would pass on to Maria Evandrou et al that
their very timely-published paper on women's work histories and income
in later life has been sent to the Committee... The paper will provide
valuable reference material and will be valued by the Chair of the
working group, Ferdous Ara Begum" (email correspondence, 15 July 2009).
"... Ferdous Ara Begum was much appreciative of all the material she
was sent. It enabled her to demonstrate to her colleagues the direct
impact of the cumulative effect on older women's lives of the
discriminatory practices in this area over the life course ... for those
of us lobbying at the UN and monitoring government implementation, case
histories and data are powerful tools" (extract from email
correspondence, 18 August 2013).
5.2 Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women -
General recommendation No 27 - adopted on 28 June 2010
5.3 Lixia Qu, Ben Edwards and Matthew Gray (2012) Ageing
parent carers of people with a disability Canberra: Australian
Institute of Family Studies, ISBN 978-1-921414-92-3 http://www.aifs.gov.au/institute/pubs/carers/index.html
Output 3.1 (Sefton, Evandrou and Falkingham, 2011) is cited as evidence in
section 3.3 of 'Ageing parent carers...'
5.4 European Commission, DG Employment, Social Affairs and
Equal Opportunities, "Raising Population Awareness and Addressing
Demographic and Social Change in Europe" (Acronym: Population Europe),
Agreement ref. no. VS/2009/0564,1.12.2009-30.11.2012, 499,607 Euro.
European Commission, DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion,
"Promoting Knowledge Exchange and Information Access on Demographic and
Societal Change in Europe" (Acronym: Population Europe 2.0), Agreement
ref. no. VS/2012/0168, 1.1.2013-31.12.2015. 499,820 Euro.
5.5 Agenda and participants list for key Population Europe events
with participation from UoA members available on request. See also http://www.population-europe.eu/Events/Events.aspx
5.6 Population & Policy Compact 01/2011 Europe's Citizens
should have a Choice: Toward a New Policy of Life-Course Flexibility
Demographic Insights' 02/2011 Working Life & Retirement Social
policies for changing lives: Five questions to the demographer Jane
5.7 Email from Economic Analyst, DG Employment, European
Commission - Unit D1: Social Policy Innovation and Governance European
Commission; received 22 May 2013, following EC Fourth Demographic Forum,
6-7 May Brussels. (full text of email available on request)
5.8 Email from Senior Adviser, European Centre for Social Welfare
Policy and Research, Austria. (full text of email available on request)
5.9 `Young adults' housing and independent living: New insights'
23rd November 2012, Local Government House, Smith Square, London,
5.10 Media sources: Full file of media coverage of research on
changes in the living arrangements of young men and women and in mid-life
are available on request.