Methods for Collecting Panel Data
What Can Cultural Anthropology Learn from Other Disciplines?
Published in: Journal of Anthropological Research, Volume 65, Number 3, pages 465-483 (Fall 2009). doi: 10.3998/jar.0521004.0065.304
Posted on rand.org Jul 11, 2023
In this article, we argue for the increased use of panel data in cultural anthropology. Panel data, or repeated measures from the same units of observation at different times, have proliferated across the social sciences, with the exception of anthropology. The lack of panel data in anthropology is puzzling since panel data are well-suited for analyzing continuity and change-central concerns of anthropological theory. Panel data also establish temporal order in causal analysis and potentially improve the reliability and accuracy of measurement. We review how researchers in anthropology and neighboring disciplines have dealt with the unique challenges of collecting panel data and draw lessons for minimizing the adverse consequences of measurement error, for reducing attrition, and for ensuring continuity in management, archiving, documentation, financing, and leadership. We argue that increased use of panel data has the potential to advance empirical knowledge and contribute to anthropological theory.