Webinar: Collecting and Interpreting Retrospective Survey Data

The SSRC Eurasia Program was pleased to hold the first installment in the new Webinar Series on Issues in Quantitative Methods in Eurasia Studies. Following on from the Eurasia Program’s two summer 2012 Workshops in Quantitative Methods, the SSRC will offer 4 online, interactive webinars aimed at increasing the quantitative skills of researchers of Eurasia.


Jane Zavisca is an associate professor of sociology at the University of Arizona. In addition to a PhD in sociology, she has an MA and postdoctoral training in statistics. She has designed two original surveys in Russia, as well as worked with secondary surveys such as RLMS and GGS.


Collecting and Interpreting Retrospective Survey Data

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Social scientists often wish to analyze processes of change over time. However, collecting longitudinal data by revisiting the same survey respondents at multiple points in time is often logistically and financially unfeasible. An alternative is to collect retrospective data, by asking respondents to report on their pasts. Such methods are particularly of interest in post-Soviet contexts, where researchers may want to assess individual trajectories since the collapse of Soviet rule.

This webinar will review methods for collecting and analyzing retrospective data, including: assessing what types of data can be reliable gathered retrospectively; designing questionnaires to gather such data efficiently and accurately; and matching statistical methods to the type of retrospective data available. Issues will be illustrated with two examples. The UN Generations and Gender Survey will be used to illustrate a standard approach to collecting retrospective demographic data. The Survey of Housing Experiences in Russia (a new survey currently being developed by the instructor) will illustrate the life history calendar approach, which employs visual aids and timelines to assist retrospective recall of housing conditions over the past twenty years.

After watching the recording, please complete this short survey.