Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Sociology, Social Work, and Anthropology

Committee Chair(s)

Eric N. Reither


Eric N. Reither


Sojung Lim


Erin Hofmann


John R. Stevens


Kenneth Land


Age, period, and cohort are three temporal dimensions that can make unique contributions to social and epidemiological changes that occur in populations over time. However, while the theoretical underpinnings for each temporal dimension are well established, the statistical techniques to assess the distinctive contributions of age, period and cohort are controversial. Unless questionable assumptions are imposed on the data, traditional linear regression models are incapable of estimating the independent contribution of each temporal dimension due to the linear dependence between age, period and cohort (A=P-C). Two recently developed methods, Hierarchical Age-PeriodCohort (HAPC) and Intrinsic Estimator (IE) models, enable researchers to estimate how all three temporal dimensions contribute to an outcome of interest without resorting to such assumptions. However, some simulation studies suggest that these new methods provide biased estimates of each temporal dimension. In this dissertation, I investigated whether practitioners can avoid biased results by first understanding the structure of the data. In Chapters 2 and 3, I examined whether visual plots of descriptive statistics and model selection statistics could identify various types of data structures through a series of simulation analyses. The results showed that preliminary data analysis is useful for identifying data structures that are compatible with the assumptions of HAPC and IE models. Moreover, when the data satisfied assumptions such as three-dimensionality and slight deviations from perfect functional forms, both HAPC and IE models tended to provide unbiased estimates of age, period and cohort effects. In Chapter 4, I provided a step-by-step demonstration for applying HAPC models by investigating the unique contributions of age, period and cohort to educational inequalities in the health of a large sample of U.S. adults. This study found that age and cohort effects contribute most to variability in health, and also that cross-validation is a useful way to incorporate HAPC models when preliminary analyses do not definitively show that the data structure is three dimensional.



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