Quality & Quantity 33: 305–322, 1999.
© 1999 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
At the Edge of Longitudinal Analysis. Welfare
Institutions and Social Assistance Dynamics
University of Urbino, Italy, fax: int+39-02-8692565; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Abstract. The main aim of this contribution is to present and discuss critically some of the results
from the longitudinal analysis carried out in eight cities in ﬁve European countries within the general
framework of the ESOPO project. In particular I will use these results in order to understand what
longitudinal analysis can tell us as soon as we compare different citizenship systems using process-
produced data from social assistance schemes as a relevant indicator. The contribution is divided into
three sections. The ﬁrst section will address some methodological issues and illustrate the driving
hypothesis. The second section will present some main results from the longitudinal analysis car-
ried out in the ESOPO project. The third section will highlight the institutional dimension and its
role in shaping clients’ recipiency dynamics, paying particular attention to the development of an
Key words: social assistance, longitudinal analysis, poverty.
1. Introduction: Methods and Hypothesis
project aimed at analysing and evaluating local policies against
poverty and social exclusion. Such an ambitious endeavour required a complex in-
tegration of a precise conceptual frame and several methodologies, both qualitative
and quantitative, of which an event history approach was one of the main pillars.
In fact, we assumed that knowing something about the dynamics into, through
and out of social assistance would tell us something not only about the groups of
population at risk of impoverishment in a speciﬁc given context, but in particular
about the implementation process of the policies and their outcomes. This speciﬁc
focus led us far from a traditional evaluation, because to assess the impact of redis-
tributive measures, we would have needed another research design and other data
sources. Following Beckerman’s inﬂuential approach (1979) we would have had to
compare incomes before and after means-tested transfers both in terms of incidence
and intensity of poverty (e.g., Nübel, 1998). But within the ESOPO study micro-
data were not available for the cities considered and the research team opted for
another solution, concentrating on the social processes underlying the construction
The paper was presented at the international workshop on ‘Longitudinal Analysis: Bridging the
qualitative and the quantitative’ held in Padova, 14–16 May 1998.