In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Panel Studies

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Software and Statistical Resources
  • Training Resources
  • Journals
  • Ethical Issues in Panel Studies
  • Panel Data Sets for Secondary Analysis

Sociology Panel Studies
Heather Laurie
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 August 2013
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 August 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756384-0108


Panel studies are a particular design of longitudinal study in which the unit of analysis is followed at specified intervals over a long period, often many years. The key feature of panel studies is that they collect repeated measures from the same sample at different points in time. Most panel studies are designed for quantitative analysis and use structured survey data. Panel studies can also use qualitative methods for the data collection and analysis. They may also be constructed from register data, an approach that is common in some countries. This entry concentrates on household panels collected by surveys. Cross-sectional surveys are based on a sample of the population of interest drawn at one time point. In contrast, panel surveys follow the population of interest over an extended time period and are concerned with measuring change over time for the units of analysis within the population. The unit of analysis is typically an individual, but it could also be a firm or a dwelling or any other unit of analysis required by the research design. Panel surveys typically collect data at relatively frequent intervals depending on the design requirements of a given study. Some run over many years and others are short term, such as short panels conducted around elections. Panel surveys are distinct from cohort studies, which often sample an age cohort born in a particular month and year and follow that cohort at infrequent intervals, often with a focus on early childhood development. While the difference between cohort and panel designs can be overstated, panel studies typically sample from the entire age range and collect repeated measures across the age range and throughout the life course. Panel studies have been used extensively to monitor the dynamics of poverty, movements into and out of the labor market, and the process of demographic change. Longitudinal data generated from panel studies can be analyzed to understand the short-term dynamics of change, including movements into and out of employment or transitions into and out of poverty. Panel studies can also be used to examine long-term effects such as children’s education and labor market outcomes in the context of their family background, or later life health outcomes in the context of earlier health behaviors. Panel studies are therefore suited to the analysis of the life course and understanding the interrelationships between life events, behaviors, preferences, and later outcomes that affect people’s life chances and well-being and provide data which enhances our ability to make causal inferences through controlling unobserved heterogeneity.

General Overviews

The works in this section provide a combination of overviews to survey methods and longitudinal studies in general, as well as panel studies in particular. They provide an introduction to the range of issues to be considered when designing, implementing, and analyzing longitudinal data sets, which tend to be more complex than surveys done in a cross-sectional context. Groves, et al. 2009 and de Vaus 2002 are essential survey methodology texts for those unfamiliar with survey methodology. The principles of high-quality data collection that apply to cross-sectional surveys also apply to longitudinal surveys, but there are additional issues to consider due to the longitudinal design. The concept of “total survey error,” comprising error from sampling and nonsampling sources, has become central to assessing data quality within survey methodology, and it has particular implications for longitudinal studies (Groves 2005). Rose 2000 and Ruspini 2002 introduce the principles that apply to high-quality data collection for panel studies and are accessible introductions for those unfamiliar with how panel data can be used in analysis. They provide helpful examples of research using panel data to illustrate how these data can be exploited in analysis. The first major volume to synthesize the complexities involved in designing and managing a panel study was Kasprzyk, et al. 1989, covering particular aspects in the collection of the data, the implications for data quality of the longitudinal design, and analysis techniques for panel data. Menard 2008 and Lynn 2009 are up-to-date edited volumes, with contributions by experts in the field, on the methodology of longitudinal surveys, including new developments in the field. They highlight the advantages and disadvantages of panel studies for analysis, statistical adjustments such as weighting and imputation, and panel data analysis techniques.

  • de Vaus, D. A. 2002. Surveys in social research. 5th ed. London: Routledge.

    A textbook covering all aspects of the survey design, data collection, and analysis phases applicable to cross-sectional and longitudinal surveys. Emphasizes the importance of identifying clear research questions and operationalizing key concepts within a questionnaire to produce reliable and valid measures for analysis.

  • Groves, R. M. 2005. Survey errors and survey costs. 2d ed. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

    An essential text covering the concept of total survey error and its components and the costs and errors arising from sampling and nonsampling error.

  • Groves, R. M., F. J. Fowler, M. P. Couper, J. M. Lepkowski, E. Singer, and R. Tourangeau. 2009. Survey methodology. 2d ed. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

    This volume is an up-to-date textbook covering the basic key principles of survey design and implementation at all stages of the data collection process. The authors are leaders in the field of survey methodology and this is an ideal volume for those less experienced in survey methods.

  • Kasprzyk, D., G. Duncan, G. Kalton, and M. P. Singh, eds. 1989. Panel surveys. New York: Wiley.

    This edited volume is the first authoritative text dedicated to providing a comprehensive and systematic review on the design and analysis of panel surveys. While this volume was published at the end of the 1980s, it remains one of the best volumes on the subject.

  • Lynn, P., ed. 2009. Methodology of longitudinal surveys. Wiley Series in Survey Methodology. Chichester, UK: Wiley.

    DOI: 10.1002/9780470743874

    Written by a team of international experts, this volume covers all the main stages in the design, implementation, and analysis of longitudinal surveys and includes recent methodological developments in the field. These include the use of dependent interviewing and mixed-mode data collection.

  • Menard, S., ed. 2008. Handbook of longitudinal research: Design, measurement, and analysis. Amsterdam: Elsevier.

    Written by leaders in the field and designed to introduce readers to the topic. Chapters describe the design, collection, and analysis stages of longitudinal research, including panel surveys. Describes the range of analysis techniques available, including descriptive and causal analysis, event history analysis, structural equation models and multilevel models, and time-series analysis.

  • Rose, D., ed. 2000. Researching social and economic change: The uses of household panel studies. London: Routledge.

    An accessible introduction to panel studies, highlighting issues of data quality to be aware of when analyzing panel data. Includes chapters giving examples of how panel data have been used in substantive analysis of poverty transitions, low-income dynamics, household and family dynamics, and migration and residential mobility.

  • Ruspini, E. 2002. Introduction to longitudinal research. London: Routledge.

    Aimed at graduate students and those new to the area of longitudinal research, this volume provides a concise yet comprehensive introduction to the issues involved, including defining the concept of longitudinal research, sources of longitudinal data in Europe and the United States, and the advantages and disadvantages of certain types of research data and of different types of analysis.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.