Rudnev, M., & Vauclair, C. M. (2022).  Revisiting Cowgill’s Modernisation Theory: Perceived Social Status of Older Adults Across 58 Countries.  Ageing & Society
Full text


Cowgill’s modernisation theory stipulates that older people’s social status is lower in societies with higher societal modernisation. The few existing studies reveal conflicting results showing either negative or positive associations. The current study follows up seminal cross-national research on the perceived social status of people in their seventies (PSS70) in a diverse set of countries. PSS70 was defined as the relative status of people in their seventies compared to people in their forties. Data were obtained by the World Values Survey (2010–2014) and included 78,904 respondents from 58 countries. Multilevel regressions showed that the level of modernisation had a strong and negative association with the PSS70 but mostly due to one component, namely the share of older people in society. The associations were more complex when considering cultural zones of which two stood out. Irrespective of level of modernisation, Muslim countries showed higher and post-communist countries showed lower levels of PSS70. In Muslim countries, modernisation had a near-zero association with PSS70, whereas it was strongly negatively associated with PSS70 in post-communist countries. This study generally supports Cowgill’s theory in a large and diverse cross-sectional sample of countries, yet it also illustrates its cultural boundary conditions.