Income mobility in old age in Britain and Germany

Publication type

Journal Article


Publication date

June 1, 2005


The increases in human longevity and early retirement in recent decades have posed new challenges for policy makers, and require a comprehensive understanding of the processes that influence the economic resources of older people. This paper examines the income mobility experienced by older people living in Britain and Germany during the 1990s, and identifies the influential personal attributes and lifecourse events. The analysis uses British Household Panel Survey (BHPS) and German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) panel data. The comparative perspective yields insights about the different income experiences of older people in the two markedly different welfare regimes. It is found that old-age income mobility has been more pronounced in Britain than in Germany, and that in both countries its occurrence was strongly associated with changes in living arrangements, with the employment status of co-residents, and with widowhood among women. Unemployment during working life associated significantly with negative late-life income mobility. Among those on low incomes, a high share of income from an earnings-related pension had a significant and positive effect in both countries. To reduce downward income mobility in old age, particularly among widows, there is a need to strengthen the social safety-net. Policies are required to encourage flexible living arrangements in old age, as well as to give greater protection in later life from unemployment during working life, especially in Germany.

Published in

Ageing and Society


Volume: 25 (4):543-565



not held in Res Lib - bibliographic reference only



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