Panel Analysis: When to Use It and What to Consider When Collecting and Analyzing Panel Data

Abstract

Based on our 2013 article, ‘Does deployment to war affect soldiers’ public service motivation? A panel study of soldiers before and after their service in Afghanistan', we present panel analysis as a methodological discipline. Panels consist of multiple units of analysis, observed at two or more points in time. In comparison with traditional cross-sectional studies, the advantage of using panel studies is that the time dimension enables us to study effects. Whereas experimental designs may have a clear advantage in regard to causal inference, the strength of panel studies is difficult to match in research settings where it is not possible to distribute units of analysis randomly or where the independent variables cannot be manipulated. The greatest disadvantage in regard to using panel studies is that data may be difficult to obtain. This is most clearly vivid in regard to the use of panel surveys where panel attrition, the practical and ethical challenges of contacting the same respondents at different points of time may affect response rates negatively. In this article, we present some key distinctions regarding panel data and analyses, and in the subsequent exercises, we invite readers to apply these concepts on a number of recently published panel studies.

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