In this episode, we talk with Deborah Carr about life course and longitudinal studies. We draw upon her work with the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study to discuss issues of measurement, sampling, and study design.

“For any researcher of life course and aging, longitudinal and prospective data are essential. If we study whole lives, but do it retrospectively – for instance, if we ask someone at age 65 to recall upon their lives – there’s a very powerful phenomenon called retrospective recall bias. People reconstruct their past in such a way that it meshes with their current conditions….your current mood taints all your prior recollections.

So, to really understand aging, you can’t just look at people at one point in time to really know what their lives are like. We need to talk to people at multiple points over time so we can see how they change as they age and to see how their experiences differ based on historical changes in the world. The important point is that you follow individuals over time so that you can really track continuity and change in their lives.”
– Deborah Carr –