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Christine L. Williams, Chair CLA 3.306, Mailcode A1700, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-232-6300

Spring 2010

SOC 389K • Historical and Comparative Methods

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
46540 W
3:00 PM-6:00 PM
BUR 214

Course Description

This course provides an in-depth introduction to survival methods for the analysis of change in time-dependent discrete dependent variables. The course draws on methodological and empirical research from the social sciences. Special attention is directed at the relationship between theories of social change, life course attainment and dynamic models. Moreover, we will examine alternative data collection strategies to obtain longitudinal data. Examples and homework assignments will draw principally on three data sets: the German Life History Study (GLHS), the National Longitudinal Survey of Older Men, and the National Health Interview Surveys

The course begins by focusing on simple stochastic processes for qualitative variables. We do so through the lens of non-parametric, discrete-time life table techniques. The topics include basic life table relations, single- and multiple-decrement life table models, and increment-decrement life table models. The purpose is to learn how to describe increasingly complex dynamic social processes. We then turn to continuous-time, discrete-state models. Parametric and partially parametric models will be introduced which allow for the dependency of rates on both explanatory factors and time. We will briefly examine some special topics including competing risk models, local hazard models, unobserved sources of heterogeneity in hazard models, and continuous state-space hazard models. The purpose of this aspect of the course is to communicate the variety and power of multivariate hazard models for hypothesis testing of social science processes.

Grading Policy

In addition to reading required materials, attending class sessions, and contributing in class, students must complete three sets of written assignments. First, homework occasionally will be assigned. Homework assignments will involve both numerical problem solving and critical writing. The second and third written requirements are the mid-term and final exams. Both exams will be take-home exams involving longitudinal data analysis. The basic aim of the exams is to educate you about how one goes about formulating, estimating, and interpreting event history models. Grades will be based on the two exams (45% each) and the homework (10%). I also will evaluate the homework assignments to identify concepts or techniques that are problematic


The technical literature on survival analysis is voluminous, spanning a variety of fields. For example, partial likelihood hazard models were developed primarily within biostatistics, while the much of the development of parametric hazard models took place within sociology and economics. Starting in the late 1980s, a literature emerged which places these different traditions within a more general survival analysis framework. A major work in this vein is the book, Event History Analysis (Blossfeld, Hamerle, and Mayer, 1989). This text also shows how to estimate hazard models using a variety of software packages (e.g., SAS). More recently Techniques of Event History Modeling was published (Blossfeld and Rohwer, 1995, 2002); this is a comprehensive introduction to continuous-time event history techniques. The 2002 2nd edition is the core text for this course.

The textbook has been ordered by the UT bookstore. The full title is: Blossfeld, Hans-Peter, and Götz Rohwer. 2002. Techniques of Event History Modeling, Second Edition. Mahway, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates

If you are a Stata user and plan to use event history models extensively in your work, you might want to consider ordering a new version of this text that uses Stata to generate the examples shown in the text. The text is: Blossfeld, Hans-Peter, Katrin Golsch, and Götz Rohwer. 2007. Event History Analysis with Stata,Mahway, New Yersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Important information about course materials:
1. Course notes for each module are located on the Blackboard site for the class. Please print the modules and bring your notes to class.
2. Some material from difficult to obtain resources has been scanned and is available in .pdf format on the class' Blackboard site.
3. Assigned journal articles are available electronically and students are responsible for obtaining their personal copies.


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