New Life for Old Ideas: The ‘‘Second Wave’’ of Sequence Analysis Bringing the ‘‘Course’’ Back Into the Life Course

Silke Aisenbrey and Anette E. Fasang: New Life for Old Ideas: The ‘‘Second Wave’’ of Sequence Analysis Bringing the ‘‘Course’’ Back Into the Life Course, Sociological Methods Research 2010 38: 420-462.

Silke AisenbreyAnette E. FasangIn this article the authors draw attention to the most recent and promising developments of sequence analysis. Taking methodological developments in life course sociology as the starting point, the authors detail the complementary strength in sequence analysis in this field. They argue that recent advantages of sequence analysis were developed in response to criticism of the original work, particularly optimal matching analysis. This debate arose overthe past two decades and culminated in the 2000 exchange in Sociological Methods & Research. The debate triggered a ‘‘second wave’’ of sequence techniquesthat led to new technical implementations of old ideas in sequence analysis.The authors bring these new technical approaches together, demonstrateselected advances with synthetic example data, and show how they conceptuallycontribute to life course research. This article demonstrates that in lessthan a decade, the field has mademuch progress toward fulfilling the predictionthat Andrew Abbott made in 2000, that ‘‘anybody who believes that patternsearch techniques are not going to be basic to social sciences over the next25 years is going to be very much surprised’’ (p. 75).

Keywords: sequence analysis, optimal matching analysis, life course, longitudinal data analysis

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