Social Class, Age, and Identity in Later Life

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 5:45 PM
Room: Booth 40
Oral Presentation
Martin HYDE , Stress Research Institute, Stockholm, Sweden

This paper will present a comparative analysis of social class identity and age identity in later life in the context of social change.  First, the paper will address gerontological approaches to class and later life alongside key theoretical approaches to identity and social change.  Second, the paper will consider the methodological and data issues associated with cross-national research and review evidence, at national and cross-national levels, for a relationship between class identity and age identity.  Third, the paper will present an analysis of (i) global comparative data from The International Social Survey Programme (ISSP) and (ii) changes in identity over time using the UK Citizenship Survey.  Findings show relatively wide cross national differences in the salience of class and age for identity in later life. Moreover age and class identities operate independently of each other suggesting, from a relational sociology viewpoint that other forms of identity and identification need to be examined. However, overall, neither appears to be a particularly important aspect of identity. There is some evidence (in Europe at least) of a relationship between GDP and class identity lending some support to Inglehart’s post materialist thesis but there is no evidence of a generational effect.  Analysis of UK data suggests higher levels of class and age identity among this sample of retirees raising both methodological questions and the possibility of greater variation within samples.  The paper will conclude by discussing the salience of class and age identities at national and international scales.