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Durham University

School of Education

Research Projects

Publication details

Cooper, B. & Glaesser, J. (2016). Exploring the robustness of set theoretic findings from a large n fsQCA: An illustration from the sociology of education. International Journal of Social Research Methodology 19(4): 445-459.

Author(s) from Durham


Ragin’s Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) is often used with small to medium samples where the researcher has good case knowledge. Employing it to analyse large survey datasets, without in-depth case knowledge, raises new challenges. We present ways of addressing these challenges. We first report a single QCA result from a configurational analysis of the British National Child Development Study dataset (highest educational qualification as a set theoretic function of social class, sex and ability). We then address the robustness of our analysis by employing Duşa and Thiem’s R QCA package to explore the consequences of (i) changing fuzzy set theoretic calibrations of ability, (ii) simulating errors in measuring ability and (iii) changing thresholds for assessing the quasi-sufficiency of causal configurations for educational achievement. We also consider how the analysis behaves under simulated re-sampling, using bootstrapping. The paper offers suggested methods to others wishing to use QCA with large n data.

School of Education