First Advisor

David L. Morgan

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Urban Studies


Urban Studies and Planning




Older women -- United States -- Attitudes, Urban women -- United States -- Attitudes, Cohort analysis



Physical Description

4, vii, 182 leaves (1 folded): ill. 28 cm.


The central theme of this study is that because of the changing life styles and the macro-events which occurred after World War I these years were a watershed. The women born in the three five-year cohorts from 1910 through 1924 were at different stages of maturity and awareness as particular economic and political events occurred. The social and political climates were different for each of these cohorts of women. Therefore there would be discernible differences in attitudes and opinions among the cohorts. A literature review indicated three models for the formation of social attitudes and political opinions. The "Personality Types" is based on the premise that attitudes formed early in life remain fixed. The "Aging/Conservative" model considers that attitudes become increasingly conservative as the person ages. This study, however, was based on the "Historical Change" model. Beliefs and attitudes may change in response to personal experiences throughout the life course. Four research questions were developed. 1. How have macro-events affected the life experiences of women in these cohorts? 2. How have social pressures affected their experiencing of employment, matrimony, and motherhood? 3. How do the opinions of women in these three cohorts with regard to social and political issues differ and change? 4. Can differences of opinions among the women of the three cohorts be traced to dissimilarities in life experiences? Census data literature was researched to provide background documentation on technological and demographic changes in the United States during the 20th century. Questions for cohort comparisons were selected from the National Opinion Research Council Surveys of 1972 through 1989. These considered individual and family demographics, labor force participation, social attitudes, and political orientation. For the 2,814 respondents analysis was done by five-year cohorts to determine differences and by six-year periods to point out trends. Both ANOVA and Chi-square were used to verify statistical significance. Focus group sessions, with 41 participants, met at senior centers and housing units in the Portland metropolitan area. A questionnaire completed by each participant confirmed that the focus group demographics corresponded to those of the national sample. Individual life experience time lines provided material for opening the discussion. Other discussion topics were based on differences noted among the three cohorts in the NORC data analysis. These were in the areas of education, work experience, family life patterns, political orientation, and attitudes toward societal changes. A brief finding for each research question follows. 1. NORC data indicated that each successive cohort held increasingly liberal sociopolitical opinions, and that women of all three cohorts became less conservative over the years. The focus group participants related these changes to specific macro-events in their life experiences. 2. Focus group discussions disclosed that the 1910-1914 cohort realized later in life that societal pressure had limited their educational achievement. Women of the 1915-19 cohort came to understand that their acceptance of the homemaker role was somewhat based on societal expectations. The 1920-24 cohort were aware that discrimination in the work arena was based on societal norms of the time. 3. Analysis of both NORC data and opinions expressed in the focus groups indicated that each successive cohort was increasingly broadminded and tolerant. 4. The women participating in the focus groups exhibited an awareness of the differential effects of life experiences. They specified the effects of macro-events (chiefly the Great Depression), education, mobility, and workforce participation. This research has tentatively confirmed that a generational watershed occurred for women born before World War I and those born after. As the women of the 1910 through 1924 cohorts matured they experienced differing social and political climates. This resulted in cohort differences. Further investigation may reveal more precise cohort boundaries for the 1910 through 1924 years. It should be remembered also that cohort boundaries for men may not coincide with those of women.


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