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This paper systematically explores potential uses, insights, and limitations of census-based approaches to studying changes in the status of the elderly, particularly in third world countries.
From a life-course perspective, this translates into a comparative analysis of the flow of cohorts through social structures, or more formally into the application of cohort analysis to status measures in a repeated cross-sectional design. The statuses of the elderly are divided into those that are relatively invariant for older individuals and those which are subject to change. Each provides different insights into intra-cohort development and intercohort social change.
For example, tracing different cohorts of elderly on literacy or education points up the degree of compositional shift in the makeup of the elderly population. For characteristics that can vary, like labor force status, analysis of intra-cohort development focuses on the level of net transitions among statuses between two censuses.