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The Magic of Longitude

On the great scientific discoveries was the accurate calculation of longitude in maritime navigation. Dava Sobel's book called "Longitude" tells the dramatic story of English clockmaker John Harrison's pioneering of portable precision time keeping which gave the breakthrough. The holy grail of social sciences is longitudinal studies. This means taking one group of people and interviewing them at intervals over a period of time. One of the most popular longitudinal studies has been the Seven Up documentary series by Michael Apted. It charts the dreams, lives, and ambitions of 14 children from diverse backgrounds from all over England. The first study was in 1964 when they were 7, has been repeated every 7 years is now up to 42-up.

Adele Horin writes in the Sydney Morning Herald about a longitudinal study by the Melbourne Institute http://www.melbourneinstitute.com/hilda/ The study follows adults from 7,680 households indefinitely to provide a picture of changing family and economic life style. It's very early days yet with only two interviews in 2001 and 2002. To date the main observations from the results of the study over the one year 2001-2002 are as follows:

* 23% moved house during the year.

* 43% of the moves involved distances of less than 5 Kms.

* 60% of jobs ending were voluntary terminations.

* Retirement households have about $200,000 of housing equity and $50,000 of financial assets.

* The richest 10 percent of households have a net-worth of $1.56 million and the poorest 10 percent had debts that exceed their assets by $5,998.

Posted Sunday, 15 February 2004

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