A fascinating post several months ago in the New York Times Economix blog, Getting More Liberal With Age, deals with the age-old conundrum as to whether people really become more conservative as they get older.
In contrast to received wisdom:
A 2007 study published in the American Sociological Review examined General Social Survey data from 1972 to 2004, looking specifically at beliefs within a given age cohort about: historically subordinate groups, like whether women should be breadwinners and why African-Americans are poorer than whites; civil liberties for groups outside the mainstream, like homosexuals, communists and atheists; and boundaries of privacy, related to things like premarital sex and divorce.
The authors found that a given age cohort’s attitudes changed over time — more often later in life — and that “the direction of change is most often toward increased tolerance rather than increased conservatism.”
Makes sense to me. Certainly much of the impetus for change in our access communities is coming from people who have been around for a long time — although so is much of the opposition.
Of course, the attitudes of age cohorts are influenced by the times in which people grew up. One explanation for the surge of innovation in courts is simply that the 60’s generation is coming to power in those systems. What this paper shows is why the behavior of that cohort continues to reflect those experiences, rather than to reject them.
It is also certainly true that much of the hard work of innovation, particularly on the legal aid side, is being driven by those very recently out of law school. Let’s hope they keep at it.