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Old vs young - Are people in their 20s being discriminated against?

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by Hollie Jenkins

New analysis conducted by researchers from City University London’s Centre for Comparative Social Surveys shows that people in their 20s in Britain are more likely to feel discriminated against because of their age and are viewed more negatively than those over 70.

The research, which utilised data from both the European Social Survey and the British Social Attitudes series, suggests that conflict between younger and older generations, as seen in the recent student protests, could be the start of a new trend.

Data analysis conducted by Rory Fitzgerald, Eric Harrison and Frank Steinmaier showed that over half of 18-29 year olds reported having been treated with prejudice because of their age in the last year, compared with around a quarter of those aged 30-39 and only a fifth of those aged 60-69.

The data also suggested that there is a greater sense of bonding on the basis of age among younger generations. 66% of those describing themselves as 'young' felt they had more in common with those in the same age group compared to just 53% of those describing themselves as 'older'.

"Age is becoming increasingly important as a form of identity. We are used to thinking of ageism in terms of the way older people are treated, but it can equally apply to other age groups," says co-author Eric Harrison of City University London.

"The numbers reveal a well-developed sense of discrimination among the young which might serve as a catalyst for resentment in the longer term. While attitudes to those in old age seem benign, the conflicts of the future may be between today's young and their parents' generation."

Eric Harrison, Researcher, City University London

The researchers say that such antagonisms between generations and conflicts on the basis of age could become an increasing trend.

 "As the baby boomer generation retire, young people today are facing a different, often less affluent and insecure adulthood than those enjoyed by their parents. There is a sense among some commentators that the baby boomer generation furthered its own interests at the expense of the next.

"As age becomes a more important part of young people's identity, we could see more examples of younger generations banding together to take political action on issues impacting their generation.

"Our research suggests that intergenerational conflict could increase as resources (access to jobs, homes, pensions) become more scarce - the recent student protests could be a sign of this," says Eric Harrison.

The analysis also indicates that people are most positive towards those in older age brackets and feel that those in their 70s contribute more than those in their twenties to customs and way of life in Britain.

"There was only a small difference in the perceived contribution to the economy of those in their 20s and 70s, which is perhaps further evidence of negativity between towards the young since most over 70s are economically inactive."

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