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giving mega attention to macro research The Rewards and Challenges of Quantitative Cross-National Data Collection and Analysis nina bandelj Comparison is central to any social scienti‹c inquiry. As one scholar boldly stated, not only social science but “thinking without comparison is unthinkable ” (Swanson 1971, 145, emphasis added). We usually understand things in reference to other things. As social scientists we want to know if patterns exist across the social groups or individuals that we study, and pattern ‹nding of course necessarily involves comparing. In fact, one of the founding fathers of sociology, Emile Durkheim, claimed that “comparative sociology is not a particular branch in sociology; it is sociology itself” (1938, 139). Where better then to highlight the salience of comparison than in a cross-national setting? The all-too-familiar notion of “culture shock” is based on the premise that countries differ from one another. In our own familiar environments we tend to take things for granted. We often con›ate the way things are around us with the way the world should be in general. But almost as soon as we get off the plane in a foreign country, we are nudged into questioning this assumption. As many students who return from foreign exchange trips reveal, an extended period of time in a foreign 217 country typically forces one to reexamine personal values and behaviors and the ways of one’s home country. Such experiences quickly reveal that different societies are organized differently and that these different modes of social organization produce equally diverse social outcomes. A famous political scientist, Samuel Huntington (1993), has even argued that some national contexts are so starkly different from others that their interactions lead to a “clash of civilizations.” At the same time, other researchers observing the increasing interdependencies in the world, which we often call globalization, have proposed that cross-national differences are diminishing and that the world is becoming more and more homogeneous (Meyer et al. 1997; Ritzer 2003). In fact, broad attention to globalization has put cross-national comparisons at the forefront of social science inquiry. The goal of this chapter is to offer some concrete advice about quantitative cross-national research and its associated trials and tribulations. Like the other contributors to this volume, I use my own research experience to re›ect on the logistics and challenges of doing work on a large-scale comparative project. My study examined foreign investment ›ows in eleven countries of Central and Eastern Europe in the ‹rst decade after the fall of communist regimes (Bandelj 2008). However, because the ‹eld of macrocomparative research is vast, this chapter also refers to a number of ‹rstrate quantitative cross-national studies that provide insights into methodological issues related to the unit/level of analysis, case selection, and the assembling of a cross-national data set. Before turning to the methodological issues, I want to give a sense of the diversity of topics that can be examined in cross-national research. What are some of the research questions that cross-national research has tackled? Or, perhaps better yet, what are the questions that it has not tackled ? Indeed, any social scienti‹c topic one can think of, including economic , political, social, cultural, and technological issues, has most likely been addressed in a cross-national comparative setting. One prominent set of cross-national questions that scholars in economics, political economy, and economic sociology continue to investigate concerns the determinants and consequences of national economic development (e.g., Smith 1900; Gerschenkron 1962; Evans and Rauch 1999; for reviews see Geref‹ 1994; McMichael 2000). Using cross-national research, scholars have tried to specify the economic and noneconomic factors that contribute to broad disparities: that is, to the fact that some countries continue to enjoy great economic prosperity while others suffer persistent poverty and underdevelopment . But, of course, national development is not con‹ned to eco218 • research confidential nomic dimensions. Hence, those interested in the political issues have compared and contrasted the political institutions and policy outcomes across different states, asking questions such as, Why is there so much diversity in national political organization and policy outcomes? What determines whether a country provides more or less social protections for its citizens? Moreover, how does the fact that countries have historically been characterized by distinct politicoeconomic institutions contribute to the different values that the nationals of particular countries are believed to share? What are the salient differences in cultures across national groups? Are these declining or persisting over time...


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