Published online by Cambridge University Press: 04 August 2010
Historians and social scientists often investigate the conditions that influence the occurrence of particular events. For instance, a researcher might be concerned with the causes of revolutionary action in some countries or the forces that unleash racial rioting in major cities. Or perhaps the researcher wishes to examine why industrial workers decide to strike or what prompts policy-makers to pass new legislation. In each of these examples, a qualitative shift occurs, from a circumstance without racial rioting in a particular city, for instance, to one with racial rioting. Event history analysis can aid researchers in uncovering the conditions that lead to such a shift.
Event history analysis is a quantitative method that offers researchers a means of explaining why such events occur. A myriad of types of events can be analyzed using event history analysis. Suitable kinds of events are those marked by a definite and somewhat abrupt transition from one state to another, such as the founding or collapse of an organization or the emergence of a social movement. More gradual transitions from one state to another where there is difficulty pinpointing the moment in time of the transition are usually not amenable to event history analysis.
Event history analysis utilizes event history data which are composed of event histories for the nations, organizations, groups, or even individuals examined in the analysis. These event histories are over-time records that reveal when, if at all, the event being studied occurs for each of the cases included in the analysis.