With the express intent to classify the national population in a further level of detail than the recent census, we provide a listing of various sites and the accompanying analysis tying their results to the census totals. Having this, we can then analyze cohorts of people as they travel between groups and examine the demographic and societal traits that seem to exert forces on people. The lists appear in the appendix and a description of the methodology is shown here.
However strong an influence may seem; an action (possibly conscious) needs to take place to make a person ‘jump’ into another group. The example of graduating high school seniors best displays this. If an 18 year old male student lives in a fairly affluent neighborhood, and his parents both went to college (the same college in fact), he may feel a certain force to go that college in the fall after graduation. The fact that this student loves acting, and his parent’s went to an engineering school may push him another way. His girlfriend who is staying in town and working at the local diner to save money for next fall pulls him in yet another. At the end of the day, our test subject must make a conscious choice to go somewhere.
Assuming he goes to the local community college, the question remains as to why, and to what extent did he throw a dart and trust its landing. Choosing engineering may have satisfied his parents and may have secured a certain type of job. Choosing acting may have done the same (or the exact opposite). Choosing to stay local has its own implications. Having such tensions pulling in opposite directions can make the option of trusting that ‘things will work out’ a comforting one. An intelligent and random guess ends the issue and pushes the blame to whatever physics made the coin flip a certain way. Still, the subject must see the result and choose to accept it.
It may be possible to arrange a set of possible options open to a person at every step of his/her life and track the changes. In theory, this would be entirely too cumbersome as an infinite number of choices must be analyzed in an infinitely small amount of time. To this end, the random choice aspect must always be introduced and compete against a reasonable set of alternatives. Mathematically, a Markov chain is generated at every step along the way with the options changing as an element within the ‘random’ category becomes reasonable.
With our high school student, it is possible that he would have gone to college after only his sophomore year. During that year of his schooling, the college option existed, but was so small that it was lumped into the ‘random chance’ category. As time goes by, and the student survives into his senior year, the college option is now split out as its own choice.
Setting up the structure in such a way allows us to proceed to the analysis and further split out ‘random’ categories as time permits or as anomalies occur that require additional drill down. Driving along a highway, a sufficient set of options can be seen as 1. continue driving and 2. random. Approaching an exit, the choices change to 1. continue driving on the highway, 2. take the exit, and 3. random. Having taken the exit, and approaching a rotary at the bottom of the ramp, we change once again 1. take turn 1, 2. take turn 2, 3. take turn 3, and 4. random.
Here ‘random’ includes choosing to crash into the nearest car, and driving into the center of the rotary. Their combined chances and implications are so small that they are lumped together. Similarly, the ‘continue driving’ choice in option one can further be split into speeding up, changing lanes, etc… but for the interest of having a full study, we group these as well.
Cohorts can be made of all the people have the same set of options available to them at any given point in time. Characteristics out of our control such as age and gender make it prohibitive to define a cohort as the set of people who have made the same choices in the past. Time can be taken out to look at trends. As a high level example, a high school class of people chooses to attend a certain set of colleges. While the class of 2000 is technically its own cohort, the class of 1999 can be added to increase the credibility of the results. While the effects of new colleges and differences in the aspirations of the students diminish the credibility, this compression of time is often utilized in order to determine results.
It is important to note that each person is in exactly one cohort at any given moment, but the groupings are constantly changing based on what traits are considered significant to the question at hand. A telling example may be an aspiring actress who works day-to-day selling vacuum cleaners. When analyzing where such a person would look for a new job, her cohort would consist only of people (perhaps women) who had the same 2 jobs. However, when looking at pregnancy statistics, she would most likely be grouped with women of the same age, ethnicity, geography, economic status, etc…
Consider two women, Sally A and Sally B, who were born in 1965 and 1970, respectively. As discussed above, the 5 year time difference in age is easy to ignore in certain comparisons of the Sallys. To make a most interesting story, let’s assume that the Sallys grew up within similar family structures in the suburbs of fairly large US cities. Their similar backgrounds place the Sallys into the same cohort until something drastic happens to exactly one of them causing them to jump into different cohort from that time on. Sally A and Sally B will never meet, but we will call them “friends” as long as they remain in the same group. If one decided to go to college and the other stayed at home, they would no longer be friends. From now on, we will discuss their grouping and movements in terms of their friends.
Early on, the Sallys and their friends are all young girls in loving families without any significant medical conditions preventing them from living a relatively free life. Differences in the working lives of their parents won’t necessarily remove a friend from a group. An exception may be a military family that moves frequently enough to materially impact the child’s life. When this does happen, these friends drop out of the Sallys group to form their own.
The size of their circle decreases as significant events and decisions happen, but can increase as events early no longer become significant to the question at hand. A home-schooled senior and a prep school senior who become best friends in college are examples of circles merging together. During college and beyond, the characteristics of their childhood are mostly irrelevant, unless analyzing family relationships perhaps.