“Birth cohorts and social change: The problem with generational labels”

Hosted by Philip Cohen


Social change happens in a lot of ways. As Philip Cohen explores in a series of entries in his book, "The Family," these include politics, law, culture, and technology. In the life course of individuals, however, when a given change takes place can make a profound difference—and reverberate through the rest of your life. In family life, for example, women who entered childbearing age after abortion became legal nationwide in 1973 made their way into adulthood in a very different world than the generation that came before them—a change we may be seeing in reverse today. Social scientists call the group of people born around the same time a "birth cohort," but in the popular culture they're sometimes called "generations," and given endearing labels, like "Millennial" and "Generation Z" -- and those are not social science categories. In this talk I'll explore how social change in the family happens, what it means for the experience of birth cohorts, and why the current "generation" labels are misleading, ultimately doing more harm than good.

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