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January 25th 2013

Quantitative Methods Webinar Series: Collecting and Interpreting Retrospective Survey Data

Social scientists often wish to analyze processes of change over time. However, collecting longitudinal data by revisiting the same survey respondents at multiple points in time is often logistically and financially unfeasible. An alternative is to collect retrospective data, by asking respondents to report on their pasts. Such methods are particularly of interest in post-Soviet contexts, where researchers may want to assess individual trajectories since the collapse of Soviet rule. This webinar will review methods for collecting and analyzing retrospective data, including: assessing what types of data can be reliable gathered retrospectively; designing questionnaires to gather such data efficiently and accurately; and matching statistical methods to the type of retrospective data available. Issues will be illustrated with two examples. The UN Generations and Gender Survey will be used to illustrate a standard approach to collecting retrospective demographic data. The Survey of Housing Experiences in Russia (a new survey currently being developed by the instructor) will illustrate the life history calendar approach, which employs visual aids and timelines to assist retrospective recall of housing conditions over the past twenty years.

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