• Article

Some Methodological Issues in Cohort Analysis of Archival Data

Cohort analyses in which the joint effects of aging, historical change and birth cohort membership are estimated for some dependent variable are often desirable on substantive grounds. Unless two of these three variables are viewed as indexing identical unmeasured causal factors, any analysis which makes estimates for only two of the three variables is subject to spurious results. But three-way cohort analysis is problematic because age, time period and birth cohort are linearly dependent on each other. Although this confounding makes estimation of some three-way cohort models impossible, this paper demonstrates that estimation is feasible in a number of such models. By exploring estimates derived for some of these models from hypothetical data for which the underlying effects are known, this paper also shows that meaningful three-way cohort analysis is difficult unless the researcher entertains relatively strong hypotheses about the nature of aging, period and cohort effects


Mason, K. O., Mason, W. M., Winsborough, H. H., & Poole, W. (1973). Some Methodological Issues in Cohort Analysis of Archival Data. American Sociological Review, 38(2), 242-258.