Quality & Quantity 38: 435–456, 2004.
© 2004 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
Occupational Careers and Longitudinal Data: Tools
and Perspectives of Research
Department of Sociology and Social Research, University of Milano-Bicocca, via Bicocca degli
Arcimboldi 8, 20126 Milano (Italy), e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Abstract. Over the last years, the start of an increasing number of longitudinal researches and
the development of suitable techniques of analysis have made possible the study of an increasing
number of questions about social mobility and individual careers. Yet there is not just one way to
face the study of careers. For the richness of the information they contain, longitudinal data offer the
possibility to carry out different types of analysis according to the different questions of research.
In this article four different approaches to the study of work-life careers will be introduced. The
objective is twofold. On one hand, the study intends to offer a brief introduction to the most recent
and sophisticated techniques that can be used for the analysis of careers. On the other hand, the
article aims to point out the theoretical contribution that each technique can give to the debate on
social mobility. The main potentialities and limits of the techniques will be stressed too.
The techniques introduced in this article represent a fruitful approach for the study of work-life
histories and occupational careers. Nevertheless they can be used for the analysis of all kinds of
Key words: careers, social mobility, longitudinal data, strategies of analysis
Mobility tables and log-linear models have shown to be extremely effective tools
for the study of social mobility. Under many aspects, they still appear the most
proper tools for the analysis of the moves of individuals within the social space and
for the study of the opportunity structure offered by a given society to its members.
On the other hand, these techniques of analysis do not allow to tackle suitable
all the many questions that are related to the study of social stratiﬁcation, social
mobility and social inequalities. In particular, the study of individual careers tend to
arise research questions which could require strategies of analysis partly different
from the ones that have been traditionally used.
In these last years, the start of an increasing number of investigations directed to
pick up information of longitudinal character and the development of suitable tech-
niques of analysis have made possible to face an increasing number of questions
about social mobility and individual careers. Yet there is not just one way to face
the study of careers. For the richness of the information they contain, longitudinal