Paradise Lost:
Age Dependence in the Mortality
of American Communes, 1609-1965

by James A. Kitts

Published in in Social Forces, 87(3): 1193-1222.

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Theorists agree that the risk of folding changes as organizations age, but there is little consensus as to the general form or generative processes of age-dependent mortality. This paper investigates four such processes (maturation, senescence, legitimation, and obsolescence), which have been taken as competing accounts. Using two analytical levers – elaborating on time shapes of these processes and distinguishing aging of organizations from aging of their templates (designs) – this paper differentiates these four processes and tests them jointly.  Analysis of mortality rates for American communes from 1609 to 1965 strongly supports the proposed effects of maturation and senescence at the organization level and legitimation at the level of organizational templates. Results give weaker evidence that obsolescence of templates influenced mortality and that environmental drift exacerbated obsolescence. 

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This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 9801691.

Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recomendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation (NSF).