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The Cohort as a Concept in the Study of Social Change

Norman B. Ryder
American Sociological Review
Vol. 30, No. 6 (Dec., 1965), pp. 843-861
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2090964
Page Count: 19
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The Cohort as a Concept in the Study of Social Change
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Abstract

Society persists despite the mortality of its individual members, through processes of demographic metabolism and particularly the annual infusion of birth cohorts. These may pose a threat to stability but they also provide the opportunity for societal transformation. Each birth cohort acquires coherence and continuity from the distinctive development of its constituents and from its own persistent macroanalyic feaures. Successive cohorts are differentiated by the changing content of formal education, by peer-group socialization, and by idiosyncratic historical experience. Young adults are prominent in war, revolution, immigration, urbanization and technological change. Since cohorts are used to achieve structural transformation and since they manifest its consequences in characteristic ways, it is proposed that research be designed to capitalize on the congruence of social change and cohort identification.

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