It Is Not a Cohort Thing: Interrogating the Relationship Between Age, Cohort, and Support for the Environment

Erik W. Johnson, Philip Schwadel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Scopus citations


Cohort replacement is one widely implicated, but seldom studied, mechanism of long-term change in public opinion toward environmental protection. A key difficulty in extant research has been empirically distinguishing cohort effects from those of age. Applying recent methodological advances in age–period–cohort models, we examine the disaggregated effects of age, time period, and birth cohort on changes in Americans’ support of federal spending for environmental protection between 1973 and 2016. Results suggest that cohort replacement provides little explanatory power. Instead, we find large age effects, with the young more likely to be pro-environmental in their views, and substantial changes across time periods (but not steady rising support). These results suggest that there is no inexorable march toward greater environmentalism as younger cohorts with greater environmental awareness replace older ones, and highlight the relative lack of explicit theorizing about the relationship between age and the environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)879-901
Number of pages23
JournalEnvironment and Behavior
Issue number7
StatePublished - Aug 1 2019



  • age–period–cohort analysis
  • environmental attitudes
  • general social survey
  • public opinion
  • trends

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)

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