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Event History Data

Vis. Methods

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Comparing Pencils

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Case Studies Index

Visualisation of historical events using Lexis pencils

1. Event history data - the nature of the problem

In the social sciences, in considering historical information on individuals, we are primarily interested in events and states, the associations between these and changes in patterns over time. As an example, we can consider a criminal career of an offender, collected since the individual reached the age of criminal responsibility. The career will consist of a sequence of offences (events) at various dates throughout the offender's life, together with information on dates of court appearance events, the sentence passed for each offence, movement into and out of prison (states), and so on. Other information may also be collected relating to the personal life of the offender. For example, information on his marital history state (single, cohabiting, married, divorced etc.), family history (number of children in the household) and work history (unemployment or employment state, salary) might also be collected over time. This is an event history, and collections of individuals form an event history dataset. Although most examples arise naturally in the social sciences, there are many examples from medicine (examination of medical histories of a group of patients, looking at drug and surgical treatment, recurrence of disease etc.), from management sciences (time-management studies) and psychology (observations of babies after stimulus).

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