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Research Methods in the Social Sciences: An A-Z of key concepts

Research Methods in the Social Sciences: An A-Z of key concepts (1st edn)

Jean-Frédéric Morin, Christian Olsson, and Ece Özlem Atikcan
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date: 29 September 2023

Cross-Sectional and Longitudinal Studieslocked

Cross-Sectional and Longitudinal Studieslocked

  • Andrew Bell


This chapter focuses on cross-sectional and longitudinal studies. cross-sectional studies involve the analysis of usually quantitative data collected at a single snapshot in time. The unit of observation might be people or countries, and those are measured only once, all at approximately the same time. In contrast, longitudinal studies (also referred to as repeated measures studies) involve analysis on multiple occasions over time, where the same individuals (or countries) — the panel — are measured on each occasion. As such, the unit of observation is occasions, and there are multiple occasions/measures of each individual. A subcategory of longitudinal studies is event-history/survival/duration analysis, where the dependent variable is binary and the focus is on causes of changes between the two states of the outcome. Note that in comparison, time series analysis typically involves fewer individuals (often only one) and a larger number of time points. A third type of study, situated in between longitudinal and cross-sectional studies, is repeated cross-sectional analysis, which involves the analysis of multiple cross-sectional data sets over time, and different individuals are measured in each wave of the survey. Here, the unit of observation is individuals, and there are multiple individuals measured in each survey wave.

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