Do people get more conservative with age?
Results of a lifelong study following Edmontonians found people care less as they age
Dr. Krahn is the lead on the study that follows Edmontonians to see how they change over time. EDMONTON—The most recent results of a lifelong study following Edmontonians for more than 30 years found that as people get older, and richer, they care less about the environment, racial and gender discrimination, and treatment of Canada’s Indigenous people.
The Edmonton Transitions Study began by following 983 local high school seniors in 1985, reconnecting with them over the years to see how they’ve changed. Back in 1984, Alberta’s unemployment rate jumped to 11.4 per cent, the highest it has been in the last 42 years.
The minds behind the study wanted to learn how young Edmontonians coming of age in tough economic times would transition to the workforce.
Harvey Krahn, a University of Alberta sociology professor and one of the founders of the study, has been along for the 33-years-and-running ride, surveying participants (then) by mail, telephone and now online.
“If I do a survey and compare you and your father and your grandfather, I can’t necessarily assume that when you get to 25 years old, you’ll start thinking like your dad, because you were born and shaped in a different era than he was, and your grandfather,” Krahn explained.
“And so you really need a study like ours to actually follow the same people and see if, as you get older, you change.”
Using data from the 2010 check-in, when the participants were 43, he wanted to learn if there was truth to an old saying: If you’re not a liberal at 25 you have no heart; if you’re not a conservative at 45, you have no brain.
In other words, do people become more conservative as they age?
“And it looks like, to some extent, yes,” Krahn said.
But he was also interested in the factors connected to the shift, specifically whether or not higher education, a vehicle for upward mobility and, often, a better income, played a role. Full story at thestar.com/edmonton