Topics in quantitative sociology


This course introduces students to a diverse set of approaches in sociology using quantitative methods. Why sociology: because, as a discipline, sociology is distinctive at once in its welcome of methodological diversity (borrowing widely across disciplines) and in its capacity to apply – while critically reflecting about it – methods (quantitative or otherwise) to the study of social phenomena.

We will examine international contemporary sociological research that, besides classic themes in the discipline, touches on history, political science, economics, psychology, ecology, epidemiology, informatics, physics, and mathematics, and uses textual and conversation analysis, mixed methods, geometric analysis, clustering techniques, network analysis, event history and sequence analysis, laboratory and field experiments.

But the emphasis will not be on the subject matter or on the methods per se; instead we will examine how the choice of methodology influences the way we construct a research question, the way we analyze data and the type of story we tell about a phenomenon.
The ambition of this course is to develop in the future Data Scientists that you aspire to be a critical sense of how each quantitative approach, like a different pair of glasses, changes the way we perceive social reality.

Evaluation is based on some combination of the following, depending on the number of students: group-based in-class presentations of an assigned article (15 min, in English), group-based pro/con in-class discussions of the presented article (5min in English), critical reviews of an assigned article (4 pages, in French or English), and attendance.



1. Semantic approaches
  a. Qualitative and mixed methods
  b. Spatial and network analysis
2. Syntactic approaches
  a. Historical analysis
  b. Formal models
  c. Organizational ecology
3. Experimental and quasi-experimental approaches
  a. Laboratory and field experiments
  b. Inference and causality


Braunstein & al., 2014, ASR, “The role of bridging cultural practices in racially and socioeconomically diverse civic organizations”
Breen & al., 2014, ESR, “Deciding under doubt: A theory of risk aversion, time discounting preferences, and educational decision-making”
Bruch & Mare, 2006, AJS, “Neighborhood choice and neighborhood change”
Centola, 2013, RS, “Homophily, networks, and critical mass. Solving the start-up problem in large group collective action”
Conley & McCabe, 2011, SMR, “Body mass index and physical attractiveness. Evidence from a combination image-alteration list experiment”
Cook & al., 2005, SPQ, “Trust building via risk taking. A cross-societal experiment”
Desmond, 2012, AJS, “Eviction and the reproduction of urban poverty”
England & al., 2016, Socius, “Why do young, unmarried women who do not want to get pregnant contracept inconsistently”
Foschi & Valenzuela, 2012, SSR, “Who is the better applicant? Effects from gender, academic record, and type of decision”
Foschi & Valenzuela, 2012, SSR, ”Who is the better applicant: Effects from gender, academic record, and type of decision”
Fourcade & Babb, 2002, AJS, “The Rebirth of the Liberal Creed. Paths to Neoliberalism in Four Countries”
Hoffman & Bearman, 2015, SS, “Bringing Anomie Back In: Exceptional Events and Excess Suicide”
Hofstra & al., 2017, ASR, “Sources of segregation in social networks. A novel approach using Facebook”
Krysan & al., 2009, AJS, "Does race matter in neighborhood preferences? Results from a video experiment"
Mark, 1998, ASR, “Beyond individual differences. Social differentiation from first principles”
Moody & al., 2005, ASJ, "Dynamic Network Visualization"
Rivera, 2012, ASR, “Hiring as cultural matching: The case of elite professional service firms”
Salganik & Watts, 2009, CS, “Web Based Experiments for the Study of Collective Social Dynamics in Cultural Markets”
Shi & al., 2017, ASR, “A Member Saved Is a Member Earned? The Recruitment-Retention Trade-Off and Organizational Strategies for Membership Growth”
Sorensen, 2013, ICC, "Recruitment based competition between industries. A community ecology"
Stovel, 2001, SF, “Local Sequential Patterns. The Structure of Lynching in the Deep South, 1882–1930”
Thomas & Mark, 2013, SF, “Population size, network density, and the emergence of inherited inequality”
Vaisey & Lizardo, 2016, Socius, “Cultural fragmentation or acquired dispositions: A new approach to accounting for patterns of cultural change”