Options and sequences: Europe’s demographic patterns

  • Dirk J. van de Kaa

DOI: 10.1007/BF03029484

Cite this article as:
van de Kaa, D.J. Journal of Population Research (1997) 14: 1. doi:10.1007/BF03029484


It is argued in this lecture that Ryder’s approach to the study of the role of the cohort in social change is too narrow. Cohorts do not only permit change; they actively create the options succeeding cohorts have to choose from. Through its own choice from amongst the options perceived, each cohort both limits and enriches the options of the next. It is through the choice people make with regard to life shaping demographic events that they group themselves into ‘mental’ cohorts. The course of demographic events in Western Europe in the postwar period is difficult to understand if one does not appreciate that these events form a sequence. A sequence generated by the quite specific option(s) each ‘mental’ cohort, through its own choice, created for the next. Current demographic patterns in Europe have to be interpreted in terms of differences in social and cultural heritage of the countries concerned, and in terms of the differences in options perceived and selected.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dirk J. van de Kaa
    • 1
  1. 1.Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research131 Laan van Nieuw Oost IndiëThe HagueNetherlands