Table of Contents

A Handbook of Comparative Social Policy

A Handbook of Comparative Social Policy

Elgar original reference

Edited by Patricia Kennett

The current context of social policy is one in which many of the old certainties of the past have been eroded. The predominantly inward-looking, domestic preoccupation of social policy has made way for a more integrated, international and outward approach to analysis which looks beyond the boundaries of the state. It is in this context that this Handbook brings together the work of key commentators in the field of comparative analysis in order to provide comprehensive coverage of contemporary debates and issues in cross-national social policy research.

Chapter 18: The Quantitative Method in Comparative Research

Mattei Dogan

Subjects: social policy and sociology, comparative social policy


Mattei Dogan Comparative observation can replace direct experiments by altering the circumstances of a series of observations. Through quantifications the comparative method can become a substitute for the experimental method. The method of concomitant variations described by J.S. Mill contained the logic of statistical correlations and multiple regressions that social scientists use today. Among the many issues that could be raised I have selected eight to discuss briefly. I shall not look at the entire field of comparative politics, only at efforts of quantification and at the limits of the statistical method. I shall abstain from commenting on the other end of the comparative spectrum – the castles of grand theories. I shall also leave aside the literature on mathematical modelling, and any discussion on the gap between method and theory, an issue which raises enormous problems. Instead I will concentrate on the links between data and method. The eight issues to be discussed are as follows: the significance of the national average, the potentials and limits of survey research, the worldwide statistical analysis, the gross national product as a fallacious indicator, the scoring and scaling as a substitute for formal statistics, the need to replace isolated indicators by composite indices, the temporal lag between cause and effect, and the problem of the shadow economy in comparative research. These eight issues, among others, are chosen because of their relevance in the specific domain of quantitative comparisons. 1. National averages and intra-national diversities With very few exceptions,...

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