The Book: Justice Across Ages

Age structures our lives and societies. It shapes social institutions, roles, and relationships, as well as how we assign obligations and entitlements within them. Each life-stage also brings its characteristic opportunities and vulnerabilities, which spawn multidimensional inequalities between young and old. How should we respond to these age-related inequalities? Are they unfair in the same way gender or racial inequalities are? Or is there something distinctive about age that mitigates ethical concern?

Justice Across Ages addresses these and related questions, offering an ambitious theory of justice between age groups. Written at the intersection of philosophy and public policy, the book sets forth ethical principles to guide a fair distribution of goods like jobs, healthcare, income, and political power among persons at different stages of their life. At a time where young people are starkly underrepresented in legislatures and subject to disproportionally high unemployment rates, the book moves from foundational theory to the specific policy reforms needed today.

If we are ever to live in a society where people are treated as equals, the book argues, we must pay vigilant attention to how age membership can alter our social standing. We should regard with suspicion commonplace forms of age-based social hierarchy, such as the political marginalization of teenagers and young adults, the infantilization of young adults and older citizens, and the spatial segregation of elderly persons. This position carries important implications for how we should think about the political and moral value of equality, design our social and political institutions, and conduct ourselves in a range of contexts including families, workplaces, and schools.

“This is a pioneering, landmark book on justice between age groups. It makes a compelling argument that inequality between age groups matters for justice. It explains ways in which existing economic and political institutions are profoundly unjust to young adults and suggests ways to correct this. In doing so, the book casts important new light on the nature of egalitarianism and offers a superb model of how to integrate philosophical argument into the evaluation of public policy and political institutions.”

 Stuart White, Associate Professor of Politics and Tutorial Fellow in Politics, Jesus College, University of Oxford

“More saliently than ever in the covid age, entitlements and burdens vary greatly with age. Juliana Bidadanure has thought harder than anyone ever did about what justice between age groups requires and how our policies and attitudes must change to satisfy its requirements. A wonderful book full of new questions and new insights.”

Philippe Van Parijs, Hoover Chair of Economic and Social Ethics, University of Louvain

Justice Across Ages is a tour de force examination of justice between age groups. Bidadanure champions relational egalitarianism and presents a theory of age group justice that offers readers the analytic tools to assess inequalities in a wide range of areas, from jobs and basic income, to parliaments and political power. What makes this contribution such a rare gem is that the vast majority of scholars (myself included) working on age group justice concentrate on older age groups. Bidadanure takes a different tack, homing in on the moral claims of people who are young.”

Nancy Jecker, Professor of Bioethics and Humanities, University of Washington, Author of Ending Midlife bias: New Values for Old Age

“Issues of justice between age groups (e.g., children, adolescents, young adults, the middle-aged, and the elderly) and justice between birth cohorts (the group of individuals born around a certain time as compared to successive groups born at later times) are complex and difficult and their interaction, even more so. This nexus of problematic issues has met its match in Juliana Bidadanure’s brilliant new book. Her strategy of focusing on the injustices in society’s treatment of young adults pays off in genuinely original and deep analytical insights concerning what is required to forge a society in which we relate to all as equals and stand to one another as equals— including the young.”

Richard Arneson, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, University of California San Diego

Book reviews

  • K. Anthony Appiah. 2022. Generational Equality. The Chronicle of Higher Education: Best Scholarly Books of 2021.

Book events

  • forthcoming – Book Symposium, University of Pompeu Fabra, May 20th 2022.
  • forthcoming – Auguste Comte Memorial lecture, London School of Economics, May 4th 2022.
  • Balter Distinguished lecture, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, March 4th 2022.
  • Should All Ages Be Equal?” Philosophy Talk, November 18th 2021.
  • Intergenerational Ethics, American Philosophical Association, April 6th 2021.


Additional acknowledgments

I am grateful to so many people over the past decade for this book. Most of them are named and thanked in the first pages of the book. In addition to these many individuals, I am grateful to: Sarah Berger-Gonzalez for her insights on UBI when she was at the Stanford Basic Income Lab in 2018-21; Andrea Deleon Cruz, for some research assistance while she was a Stanford undergraduate in 2018; Gideon Appah, for letting me use his terrific artwork The Search as a book cover.