Comparative Longitudinal Surveys: what are the distinctive methodological issues?

Publication type

Conference Paper


European Association for Survey Research Conference


Publication date

July 19, 2005


Longitudinal surveys are methodologically distinct from cross-sectional surveys in many ways. And comparative (cross-national) surveys are rather distinct from single-nation surveys. In both cases, the distinguishing features can broadly be summarized as considerable extra analysis potential, accompanied by considerable extra design complication in order to realise that potential. Comparative longitudinal surveys might therefore be thought of as the 'holy grail' of the survey world. They have tremendous potential to further our understanding in ways that other surveys cannot. But to achieve this, there are very considerable challenges of design and implementation that must be faced.

This paper sets out some objectives for the design and implementation of comparative longitudinal surveys. A set of criteria for achieving those objectives will then be outlined. These criteria will in turn lead to the identification of the features of design and implementation that require particular attention. It will be seen that some of these features are either unique to comparative longitudinal surveys or play a distinctive role in the case of comparative longitudinal surveys.

The ideas are illustrated with examples from surveys that are either cross-national or longitudinal (or both).



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