May 31, 2012
The objectives of this article are primarily methodological. It demonstrates how the use of 'combined truth tables' derived by deploying the tools of Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) enables us to explore the multiple trajectories of cases through time. This approach is presented as an alternative to the use of log-linear methods which develop the model, which 'fits' the data. Despite urges to caution, such models are frequently understood as descriptions of causation. Log-linear models cannot deal with multiple causation and have serious problems in handling complex causation. The approach suggested here allows exploration of both multiple and complex causation without moving into the difficult terrain of causal assertion. The approach is demonstrated through an exploration, using British Household Panel data, of patterns of mobility for individuals in relation to household incomes across time comparing their household income location in 1992 with their household income location in 2006 taking into account gender, age, education, social class, being in a couple, and the employment status of partner. A subsidiary argument of the piece is that it is household income which should provide a primary focus for attention to patterns of social mobility over time.
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