This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Friday, March 10, 2017

Should We Be Worried About a Lack of Age Diversity in Neighborhoods?

A few days ago I discussed the important role that demographic diversity can play in keeping us open to new ideas, thus allowing us to better solve societal problems as they emerge and evolve. The discussion in that blog post revolved largely around race and language. A paper out this week in Demographic Research suggests that we should also be concerned about an increasing lack of age diversity in neighborhoods. The paper focuses on the UK, but the authors (Albert Sabater, Elspeth Graham and Nissa Finney) point to studies showing that age segregation is also increasing in the U.S. So, what's the big deal?

While arguments favouring age segregation on the grounds of efficient service provision may make economic sense, they are seriously challenged by the potentially adverse consequences for social cohesion (Hagestad and Uhlenberg 2006). For instance, age segregation can become exclusionary by physically separating one age group from another, with potentially serious implications such as fostering distrust, stereotypic thinking, and misunderstanding, thus impeding the well-being benefit from intergenerational mixing (World Health Organisation 20077). Additionally, in a context of increasing age segregation, austerity measures, and reduction in the capacity of the local state, competition between age groups for limited public and private resources to support their age-specific interests and agendas has the potential to generate intergenerational conflict as well as affect political outcomes (Binstock 2010).
While the data do not yet allow one to draw causal inferences, it is nonetheless the case that older people in the U.K. were disproportionately likely to vote to leave the European Union, as I noted at the time, and the authors note, as I did at the time, that in the U.S. the older population was more likely to vote for Donald Trump. Would these votes have been different if there were more regular interaction between the young and the old? It's an intriguing question.

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