Comparative Politics and the Synthetic Control Method
Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Political Science
MIT Political Science Department Research Paper No. 2011-25
In recent years a widespread consensus has emerged about the necessity of establishing bridges between the quantitative and the qualitative approaches to empirical research in political science. In this article, we discuss the use of the synthetic control method (Abadie and Gardeazabal, 2003; Abadie, Diamond, and Hainmueller, 2010) as a way to bridge the quantitative/qualitative divide in comparative politics. The synthetic control method provides a systematic way to choose comparison units in comparative case studies. This systematization opens the door to precise quantitative inference in small-sample comparative studies, without precluding the application of qualitative approaches. That is, the synthetic control method allows researchers to put "qualitative flesh on quantitative bones"' (Tarrow, 1995). We illustrate the main ideas behind the synthetic control method with an application where we study the economic impact of the 1990 German reunification in West Germany.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 34
Keywords: comparative case studies, comparative politics, synthetic control method, Germany
JEL Classification: C23working papers series
Date posted: October 28, 2011 ; Last revised: June 14, 2012
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