Age-period-cohort and cultural engagement

Authored by: Aaron Reeves

Routledge International Handbook of the Sociology of Art and Culture

Print publication date:  September  2015
Online publication date:  September  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415855112
eBook ISBN: 9780203740248
Adobe ISBN: 9781135008895


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A crucial question for cultural sociologists is how patterns of taste and cultural practice vary across time (Reeves 2014; Jaeger and Katz-Gerro 2010). Does cultural engagement increase with age (Scherger 2009)? Have there been historical shifts in the nature of cultural capital? Has snobbery declined since the 1980s? Despite this interest, the relationship between time and taste remains under-examined. Understanding this association requires that researchers attend to three distinct dimensions of time: age (how old people are when data collection occurs), period (when data collection occurs), and cohort (the year or period in which people were born) (Yang et al. 2008). Differences between age-period-cohort (APC) effects are described in this fictional dialogue, adapted from Suzuki (2012: 452):

A: I don’t enjoy the cinema anymore. Guess I’m just getting old. [Age effect]

B: Do you think it’s just what has been available? The films have been pretty poor this year. [Period effect]

A: Maybe. What about you?

B: Actually, I have been dissatisfied too! I haven’t seen anything I really enjoyed either.

A: You’re kidding. Almost all the new releases seemed aimed at your age group. I would have loved those films when I was your age.

B: Oh, really?

A: Yeah, young people these days are never satisfied. We were not like that. [Cohort effect].

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