An intergenerational audit for the UK


The coronavirus crisis has caused loss of life, threatened livelihoods, and upended daily life. It has also precipitated swift policy action from governments. Both the economic and health trajectories are fast-moving and uncertain. But even the most cursory of assessments makes clear that there are big age divides in how this crisis has been, and will be, experienced. This makes an intergenerational understanding of what’s going on essential, even as the situation, and the policy response to it, continue to develop. This Intergenerational Audit for the UK – supported by the Nuffield Foundation – provides the first comprehensive assessment of the initial phase of the coronavirus crisis for different generations in Britain.

Our focus – as was the case in our first audit last year and is the case in the broader work of the Resolution Foundation’s Intergenerational Centre – is on economic living standards. However, we are acutely aware that coronavirus poses other threats, for example in relation to health, longevity and social interaction, that are felt most by different (older) age groups from those (of working age) where the economic effects are concentrated. Given the seriousness of these outcomes, it would be incomplete to only focus on one side of this coin. So, this year, we begin with new analysis that explores the health and social effects of the pandemic, and the complex choices governments around the world have faced in balancing them against economic priorities.

Our audit then takes stock of generational living standards differences in Britain according to the latest data. It does this by considering living standards within four domains:

  • Jobs, skills and pay
  • Housing costs and security
  • Taxes, benefits and household income
  • Wealth and assets.

In each of these domains, we first assess the different paths of cohort living standards, with a particular focus on the drivers of change over the most recent couple of years. We then zero in on one area where we dig deeper – providing a ‘spotlight’ analysis that seeks to stay on the pulse of what’s changing in Britain today, and move research and policy debates forward accordingly.