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Between Solidarity and Self-Interest: The Elderly and Support for Public Education Revisited



Proceeding population aging might fuel generational conflicts about the distribution of welfare state resources in the future, but the existing evidence on the extent of generational cleavages in attitudes towards the welfare state is mixed. We argue that these mixed findings are partially related to an underestimation of trade-offs on the level of individual preferences. Using novel data from a survey experiment conducted in eight Western European countries, we show that age-related self-interest is an important determinant of social policy preferences. When elderly respondents are confronted with hypothetical cutbacks in pensions, they are much less likely to support additional education spending. However, we also find evidence for a mediating effect of social trust: high-trusting elderly individuals are more likely to support education spending – contrary to their narrow self-interest – than low-trusting elderly.



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