Handbooks of Research on Public Policy series
Chapter 18: Aging electorates and gerontocracy: the politics of aging in a global world
This chapter examines the evolving nature of politics and aging in a global world where most nations are now confronting fundamental demographic changes. The continued increase in longevity, coupled with declining fertility rates, ensures that most nations, especially those in the developed world (e.g. the EU, Asia and North America), will see an increase in their older populations and the potential of a politics of aging centered on generational tensions and public policy demands. This chapter examines several countries and spotlights variations in the evolving nature of the politics of aging. It focuses primarily on the politics of aging in the USA to present a historical overview of how interest-group politics shape elderly expectations and demands but also of how the new demographics are altering public policy trade-offs. In addition, it examines the cases of Korea, China and the EU to describe diverse approaches to the nexus of aging, politics, public policy and diversity. Our assessment of aging electorates and gerontocracy suggests that we are embarking on a new era of old-age demands for an increasing share of potentially limited public resources and that nations must elevate intergenerational trade-offs with the realities of longevity and declining fertility rates. How these dilemmas are managed may determine the substantive contributions of older persons, or it may signal increased tensions between young and old.
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