No country for young people. Poverty and age in Italy, 1948-2018
Author(s): Massimo Baldini, Giulia Mancini, Giovanni Vecchi
JEL Classification: C42, D31, I32, N30
The paper explores the changing risk of poverty for older and younger generations of Italians throughout the republican period, 1948 to the present day. We show that poverty rates have decreased steadily for all age groups, but that youth has been left behind. The risk of poverty for children aged 0-17, relative to adults over 65, has increased steadily over time: in 1977, children faced a risk of poverty 30 percent lower than the elderly, but by 2016 they are 5 times likelier to be poor than someone in the age range of their grandparents. This intergenerational reversal of fortune is unprecedented in Italy’s post-WW2 history. We also assess the impact of the Great Recession on living standards by age, finding that the young have been hit hardest, particularly in Southern regions. What explains the extra poverty risk associated with young age? Our analysis points to the welfare state, which offers better protection for the elderly than it does for the young and their families. We find that the impact of cash transfers on the incidence of child poverty is considerably lower in Italy than in most comparable countries. Overall, in the last seven decades, Italy has become no country for young people.
Keywords: age, cash transfers, Great Recession, living conditions, poverty, wellbeing