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Classifying life course trajectories: A comparison of latent class and sequence analysis

Number: 41
Year: 2011
Author(s): Nicola Barban, Francesco Billari
Keywords: sequence analysis,latent class analysis,life course analysis,categorical time series
In this article we compare two techniques that are widely used in the analysis of life course trajectories, latent class analysis (LCA) and sequence analysis (SA). In particular, we focus on the use of these techniques as devices to obtain classes of individual life course trajectories. We first compare the consistency of the classification obtained via the two techniques using an actual dataset on the life course trajectories of young adults. Then, we adopt a simulation approach to measure the ability of these two methods to correctly classify groups of life course trajectories when specific forms of "random" variability are introduced within pre-specified classes in an artificial dataset. In order to do so, we introduce simulation operators that have a life course and/or observational meaning. Our results contribute on the one hand to outline the usefulness and robustness of findings based on the classification of life course trajectories through LCA and SA, on the other hand to illuminate the potential pitfalls of actual applications of these techniques.

Nicola Barban

Universita Bocconi, Dondena Centre for Researchon Social Dynamics


Francesco Billari

Universita Bocconi, Dondena Centre for Researchon Social Dynamics



Keywords: sequence analysis, latent class analysis, life course analysis, categorical time series


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