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Cohort Change

Examples Of Cohort Diversity

Compared to cohorts who lived in the 1800s, cohorts who came of age during the 1900s had a different experience of aging. In 1900, the median age for men was 23 years old; for women 22. By 1999, the median age had risen to 34 for men and 37 for women, in part a reflection of changes in fertility rates, but also linked to changes in life expectancy. In 1900, life expectancy for men was 46 years, for women, 48 years—compared to 74 and 79, respectively, in 1999. The proportion of men and women aged 65 and older more than tripled (from 4 to 13%) during the twentieth century. Compared to earlier cohorts of 40 year olds, the cohorts of today's 40 year olds do not view their lives as almost over: the expectation of longevity has allowed people to contemplate second careers, and retirement is often viewed as an enjoyable time of life.

Increased life expectancy not only adds years to life; the anticipation of living to older ages transforms the subjective experiences of younger people as well. So, with regard to fertility, for example, not only did the fertility rate drop from an early 1900s high of 3.6 births to 2.1 births in 2000, but the timing of births moved to somewhat older ages. Comparisons of relatively recent fertility behavior demonstrates this point: in the 1960s, most childbearing occurred among women in their early twenties; while in 2000, birth rates for women in their early twenties and late twenties are almost equal, declining only among women in their thirties. The lives of contemporary women are organized much differently than the lives of their mothers and grandmothers. Women are bearing more children out-of-wedlock, marrying later, staying in school longer, becoming increasingly active in the labor force, and working in a wider variety of positions.

Additional topics

Medicine EncyclopediaAging Healthy - Part 1Cohort Change - Early Development Of The Concept Of Cohort, Examples Of Cohort Diversity, Net Change And Gross Change