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Intergenerational equity, in the sociological and psychological context, is the concept or idea of fairness or justice in relationships between children, youth, adults and seniors, particularly in terms of treatment and interactions. It has been studied in environmental and sociological settings.[1] In the context of institutional investment management, intergenerational equity is the principle that an endowed institution's spending rate must not exceed its after-inflation rate of compound return, so that investment gains are spent equally on current and future constituents of the endowed assets. This concept was originally set out in 1974 by economist James Tobin, who wrote that, "The trustees of endowed institutions are the guardians of the future against the claims of the present. Their task in managing the endowment is to preserve equity among generations."[2] in terms of an economical context. Intergenerational equity refers to relationship that a particular family has on resources. An example is the forest-dwelling civilians in Papua New Guinea, who for generations have lived in a certain part of the forest and thus becomes their land. The adult population sell the trees for palm oil to make money. If they do so at an unsustainable level there will be no resources for their children or grandchildren in the future. The unsustainable use of resource leads to Intergenerational inequity.


Conversations about intergenerational equity occur across several fields.[3] They include transition economics[4], social policy, and government budget-making.[5] Intergenerational equity is also explored in environmental concerns[6], including sustainable development[7], global warming and climate change.

Conversations about intergenerational equity are also relevant to social justice arenas as well, where issues such as health care[8] are equal in importance to youth rights and youth voice are pressing and urgent. There is a strong interest within the legal community towards the application of intergenerational equity in law.[9]

See alsoEdit

Related literatureEdit

  • Bishop, R (1978) "Endangered Species and Uncertainty: The Economics of a Safe Minimum Standard", American Journal of Agricultural Economics, 60 p10-18.
  • Brown-Weiss, E (1989) In Fairness to Future Generations: International Law, Common Patrimony and Intergenerational Equity. Dobbs Ferry, NY: Transitional Publishers, Inc., for the United Nations University, Tokyo.
  • Daly, H. (1977) Steady State Economics: The Economics of Biophysiscal Equilibrium and Moral Growth. San Francisco: W. H. Freeman and Co.
  • Frischmann, B. (2005) "Some Thoughts on Shortsightedness and Intergenerational Equity", Loyola University Chicago Law Journal, 36.
  • Goldberg, M (1989) On Systemic Balance: Flexibility and Stability In Social, Economic, and Environmental Systems. New York: Praeger.
  • Howarth, R. & Norgaard, R.B. (1990) "Intergenerational Resource Rights, Efficiency, and Social Optimality", Land Economics, 66(1) p1-11.
  • Laslett, P. & Fishkin, J. (1992) Justice Between Age Groups and Generations. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
  • Portney, P. & Weyant, J. P. (1999) Discounting and Intergenerational Equity. Washington, DC: Resources for the Future Press.
  • McLean, D. "Intergenerational Equity" in White, J. (Ed) (1999) Clobal Climate Change: Linking Energy, Environment, Economy, and Equity. Plenum Press.
  • Sikora, R.I. & Barry, B. (1978) Obligations to Future Generations. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.
  • Tabellini, G. (1991) "The Politics of Intergenerational Redistribution", Journal of Political Economy, 99(2) p335-358.
  • Wiess-Brown, Margaret. "Chapter 12. Intergenerational equity: a legal framework for global environmental change" in Wiess-Brown, M. (1992) Environmental change and international law: New challenges and dimensions. United Nations University Press.


  1. Foot, D. & Venne, R. (2005) "Awakening to the Intergenerational Equity Debate in Canada." Journal of Canadian Studies.
  2. Tobin, James. (1974) "What is Permanent Endowment Income?"
  3. (n.d.) EPE Values: Intergenerational Ethics Earth and Peace Education Associates International website.
  4. (2005) "Economics of Intergenerational Equity in Transition Economies" 10-11 March 2005.
  5. Thompson, J. (2003) Research Paper no. 7 2002-03 Intergenerational Equity: Issues of Principle in the Allocation of Social Resources Between this Generation and the Next. Social Policy Group for the Parliament of Australia.
  6. Gosseries, A. (2008) “Theories of intergenerational justice: a synopsis”. S.A.P.I.EN.S. 1 (1)
  7. (2005) Understanding Sustainable Development Cambridge University Press.
  8. Williams, A. (1997) "Intergenerational equity: An exploration of the 'fair innings' argument." Health Economics. 6(2):117-32.
  9. O'Brein, M. (n.d.) Not, 'Is it Irreparable?' But, 'Is it Unnecessary?' Thoughts on a Practical Limit for Intergenerational Equity Suits. Eugene, OR: Constitutional Law Foundation.

External linksEdit

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