A Tale of Two Trends


Two interesting articles about trends involving aging appeared in the Wall Street Journal in recent weeks. There is unlikely to be any relationship between the two trends, but:

Bigger Personal Injury Awards

In the January 4, 1995, issue of WSJ, trial lawyers and other experts are quoted as indicating that jury verdicts for elderly plaintiffs are increasing. Of course, jury awards have grown larger (at the same time that smaller proportions of plaintiffs are awarded anything at all) for many years. The “new” trend reported by the WSJ, however, focuses on awards given to elderly claimants.

It has long been accepted legal wisdom that elderly plaintiffs tend to receive smaller awards than their younger counterparts. This has been true for several reasons, including a perception on the part of jurors that the pain endured by an older plaintiff will be troublesome for a shorter lifespan than if the injury occurred while the plaintiff was younger. One of the arguments that seems to win over jurors, says the article, is that the pain may be dis-abling precisely when the plaintiff hoped to enjoy life for a last few years.

The loss of what jurors perceive as golden retirement years may be the reason elderly plaintiffs are faring better in court. That could also explain why the trend seems to be most noticeable in blue-collar areas, where jurors are looking forward to their own retirement years.

More Church

The other trend among the elderly may not come as a surprise. Actually, it should probably be described as the elderly failing to go along with a trend that has developed among younger Americans.

According to a Roper Starch poll reported in the WSJ recently, only 38% of Americans aged 30 to 44 claim to have attended church services during the previous week; this number is down from 42% in 1976.

Among those age 45 to 59, church attendance is also down, from 45% in 1976 to 39% last year. All ages taken together have a 39% rate, compared to 42% in 1976.

But among those over age 60, church attendance is actually increasing over the years. While 23% of the over-60 crowd claimed church attendance during the previous week in 1976, 28% did so in 1994.

By the way, women are more likely to have attended church in the previous week than men; Southerners are the most likely regional group to have been to church. Perhaps surprisingly, white-collar workers, professionals and managers are more likely to have attended church than blue-collar workers.

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