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skillfulbuyerUrban and Civil

Nov 16, 2013 (4 years and 7 months ago)


Quantitative methods
for researching lives
through time

Heather Laurie

Institute for Social and Economic Research

University of Essex


What do we mean by

Distinguish method from design

Cohort and panel designs

What can quantitative longitudinal studies

tell us?

Introduce a new study

Understanding Society

Defining ‘longitudinal’

Term that encompasses many forms of data
and many designs

Used as a catch
all for any study that has
some element of time within it

From oral histories through to qualitative
analysis of life
course events and transitions

And to quantitative panel or cohort analysis
of repeated observations of the same cases

Defining ‘longitudinal’

Who or what are we following?

For what time period?

How often?

Defining ‘longitudinal’

Common factors regardless of methodology

Information at or about more than one point in

Research questions that are inherently
longitudinal in nature

understanding the antecedents of events

process and lived experience

influences on decision

the timing of transitions from one state to another

A longitudinal research focus

Inherently longitudinal research questions e.g.

Educational and employment outcomes for
children depending on family and social

Labour market transitions and the impact on life
time earnings, career progression and well

Impact of ethnicity and gender on long
outcomes in the labour market and family life

generational transmission of attitudes,
values, deprivation, wealth

Analysis across the life

A longitudinal perspective on change in
individuals’ lives over time

Recognises complex interactions between life
course domains e.g. work, living
arrangements, income, leisure, health

Importance of social context e.g. household,
wider social networks, local environment, and
social and cultural norms.

Method or design?

The design of any study depends on the
research questions you want to answer

The method you use to collect those data
depends on many elements

sectional or longitudinal

the population of interest

generalisation to a population

case study

the type of analysis needed to answer your
research questions

Quantitative design approaches

Retrospective studies

Past events and transitions are recalled by
respondents e.g. life time employment history

Record linkage panels

From data collected for administrative purposes
g. taxation or social welfare system

Prospective studies

Produce ‘waves’ or ‘sweeps’ of measurement
collected over a period of years

Cohort studies

Often birth cohorts e.g. MCS but can be any age group/ ELSA
aged 50+

Follow up same cohort members at fairly long intervals

NCDS now every 4 years; ELSA every two years

Birth cohorts include developmental data as well as social and
economic data

Triangulation of data from parents, teachers, schools
associated with cohort member

Allow observation of long
term outcomes with detailed
information on childhood and family circumstances

Household panels

Draw a sample at one point in time and follow those
sample members indefinitely

Collect individual level data in household context

Usually interview all members of the household

Repeated measures at fixed intervals (usually annual
data collection)

Annual data collection allows analysis of short

Indefinite life design allows longer
term outcomes to
be observed

What do quantitative longitudinal
panels offer?

Temporal information on sequence of events

Allows us to make better inferences about
cause and effect

Short term dynamics of change

Long term dynamics

Links between current events and outcomes
and past history

What do quantitative longitudinal
panels offer?

Repeated observations on the same individual
controls for the effects of unmeasured
heterogeneity between cases

Reduce recall error

Can better understand social change by
separating out age, period and cohort effects

To establish the effect of a treatment

Sampling techniques mean statistical findings
can be generalised to the whole population

Understanding Society

A new household panel for the UK

Key features:

size of 40,000 households

Includes all of UK

Household focus
with full
age range

Annual interviews with all aged 10 and over

Innovation Panel for methodological research
and testing

Key features(cont)

topic design to meet a wide range of
disciplinary and inter
disciplinary research

Ethnic minority research

Biomedical research

Data linkage to administrative records

Opportunities for qualitative linked studies

Annual repeating content

Basic demographic characteristics

Changes between waves

employment, fertility, partnering,
geographic mobility, health

Health status (e.g. SF12), disability,

Labour market activity and
employment status, job search

Current job characteristics, basic
employment conditions, hours of
paid work, second jobs

Childcare, other caring within and
outside household

Income and earnings

Life satisfaction

Political affiliation


Transport and communication

Education aspirations and

Consumption expenditure

Housing characteristics


Housing expenditure

Household facilities, car

Understanding Society

rotating content

and social networks outside the household

Attitudes and behaviours related to environmental issues

and risky behaviour especially for young people

Psychological attributes

Cognitive ability measures

outcomes and health related behaviour

Quality of sleep


Quality of marital relationships

Risk and trust

Collection of data about younger children < 10

into young adulthood

Discrimination and harassment

Ethnic and national identity

minority research

Boost sample for five key groups in the UK (Indian,
Pakistani, Bangladeshi,
, Black African, Mixed

Increasing prominence of research into ethnic
difference for understanding the make
up of UK society

Focus on issues of diversity and commonality.

Common questionnaire content across the sample for

Additional questionnaire content within the ethnic
minority boost

to administrative records

Ask respondents for permission to link

records and hospital episodes statistics


and state benefit records

Parents asked for permission on behalf of children < 16

Link to pupil level and school level education data

pupil in England has a Unique Pupil
so can follow as they
progress through the school system

Link survey data to a range of geo
coded data, including
environmental data


ollecting a
wide range of biomarkers and health

to assess:

exposure and antecedent factors of health status,

understanding disease mechanisms (e.g. gene
environment interaction),

household and socioeconomic effects,

analysis of outcomes using direct assessments or data

Opens up prospects for advances at the interface
between social science and biomedical research.

Research potential

Developed as a research resource for the
whole user community

First data available from the UK Data Archive
from early 2011

Like the British Household Panel Study(BHPS),
we hope it will be widely used

ISER publications and web contact

For further information about
Understanding Society

For ISER publications and Working Papers see