Optimal matching analysis using ideal types to describe the lifecourse: An illustration of how histories of work, partnerships and housing relate to quality of life in early old age

Richard D. Wiggins, Christian Erzberger, Martin Hyde, Paul Higgs, David Blane

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

This paper describes how optimal matching or sequence analysis can be used to empirically evaluate the use of ideal typologies to describe the lifecourse. In our illustration, the lives of over 250 individuals, originally members of the Boyd Orr study as children in the 1930s, now in early old age (aged 65-75 years) have been reconstructed using sequence data derived from life grid interviews. Individuals are allocated to various ideal types for three distinct pathways or trajectories describing a person's labour market, relationship and housing histories. Finally, these allocations are examined in relation to an individual's self-reported quality of life (QoL) in an attempt to explore the extent to which the experience of structurally advantaged or disadvantaged states are related to a good QoL in later life. Our findings suggest that individuals assigned to structurally advantaged statuses, in each of the trajectories, generally experience higher levels of QoL compared to those assigned to structurally disadvantaged positions. In particular, the single best predictor of high levels of self-reported QoL is for those who became owner-occupiers late in life (typically council property purchasers). This suggests that the experience of stability during earlier parts of the lifecourse can provide opportunities within a de-institutionalised lifecourse that we are witnessing at the beginning of the 21st century. The results suggest that the contemporary circumstances of older people are more important for their QoL. Yet, these circumstances are, in part, conditioned by their lifecourse.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)259-278
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal of Social Research Methodology: Theory and Practice
Volume10
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2007

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