COVID-19 and Intergenerational Conflict

by Catherine E. De Vries, Francesco Billari and Paula Rettl

In order to slow the COVID-19 diffusion in the absence of a vaccine, governments around the globe have resorted to non-pharmaceutical interventions, such as physical distancing, isolation or lockdowns. While these measures have sound epidemiological foundations, they may bring generational tensions to the fore. COVID-19 poses a significantly higher risk to the elderly, yet non-pharmaceutical interventions and associated economic ramifications place a heavier burden on younger generations. We answer two questions: (1) to what extent do the trade-offs involved with non-pharmaceutical interventions increase conflict between generations? (2) to what extent do empathy, contact with the elderly or economic dependence on older generations reduce inter-generational conflict? To answer these questions, we conduct survey experiments in Italy and the Netherlands, two countries that were both severely affected by the pandemic, but provide starkly contrasting contexts when it comes to public policy and spending directed at younger and older generations.

Pre-analysis plan: