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Comparative Process Tracing in Housing Studies


  • Bo Bengtsson
  • Hannu Ruonavaara


Comparative social and political research often contains a historical dimension. Lately it has become fashionable to refer to this dimension with the term ‘path dependence’. In this article we propose an approach to comparative housing research that takes the path dependence of social and political processes seriously. In contrast to the traditional understanding of historical research, this approach, which can be called ‘comparative process tracing’, is quite strongly theoretically informed. We see comparative process tracing as an analysis in two steps. In the first step the goal is to reconstruct as closely as possible a chain of ideal-type social mechanisms made portable to other contexts by the assumption of thin rationality. In the second step, these processes are compared making use of ideal type periodisation. We have, together with others, applied comparative process tracing to an analysis of the Nordic housing policies. The article discusses the basic ideas behind the approach in that research and reflects on how to develop it further. It also presents some analytical tools that were used in the Nordic project to facilitate comparison between processes, e.g. an analytical distinction between critical junctures and focal points, a periodisation based on an ideal-type evolution model of housing provision, and a ladder of institutionalisation based on Lukes’ ‘three faces of power’.

Suggested Citation

  • Bo Bengtsson & Hannu Ruonavaara, 2011. "Comparative Process Tracing in Housing Studies," International Journal of Housing Policy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 11(4), pages 395-414, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:intjhp:v:11:y:2011:i:4:p:395-414 DOI: 10.1080/14616718.2011.626603

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Case Karl E. & Quigley John M. & Shiller Robert J., 2005. "Comparing Wealth Effects: The Stock Market versus the Housing Market," The B.E. Journal of Macroeconomics, De Gruyter, vol. 5(1), pages 1-34, May.
    2. Edward E. Leamer, 2007. "Housing is the business cycle," Proceedings - Economic Policy Symposium - Jackson Hole, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, pages 149-233.
    3. David L. Wickens & Ray R. Foster, 1937. "Non-Farm Residential Construction, 1920-1936," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number wick37-1, January.
    4. Karl E. Case & Robert J. Shiller, 1988. "The behavior of home buyers in boom and post-boom markets," New England Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, issue Nov, pages 29-46.
    5. David Genesove & Christopher Mayer, 2001. "Loss Aversion and Seller Behavior: Evidence from the Housing Market," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(4), pages 1233-1260.
    6. Robert J. Shiller, 2007. "Understanding recent trends in house prices and homeownership," Proceedings - Economic Policy Symposium - Jackson Hole, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, pages 89-123.
    7. Richard K. Green & Susan M. Wachter, 2007. "The housing finance revolution," Proceedings - Economic Policy Symposium - Jackson Hole, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, pages 21-67.
    8. Zarnowitz, Victor, 1992. "Business Cycles," National Bureau of Economic Research Books, University of Chicago Press, number 9780226978901.
    9. Dwight M. Jaffee & John M. Quigley, 1975. "Housing Policy, Mortgage Policy, and the Federal Housing Administration," NBER Chapters,in: Measuring and Managing Federal Financial Risk, pages 97-125 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. David L. Wickens & Ray R. Foster, 1937. "Non-Farm Residential Construction, 1920-1936," NBER Chapters,in: Non-Farm Residential Construction, 1920-1936, pages 1-20 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Karl E. Case & Robert J. Shiller, 2003. "Is There a Bubble in the Housing Market?," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 34(2), pages 299-362.
    12. Moses Abramovitz, 1964. "Evidences of Long Swings in Aggregate Construction Since the Civil War," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number abra64-1, January.
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