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Beyond indices: The potential of fuzzy set ideal type analysis for cross-national analysis of policy outcomes

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Publication details

JournalPolicy and Society
DateE-pub ahead of print - 11 Nov 2013
DatePublished (current) - Dec 2013
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)303-317
Early online date11/11/13
Original languageEnglish


League tables ranking performance outcomes within or between countries have become commonplace in most policy sectors in recent decades and there are numerous examples to be found in practice. UNICEF's 2007 Overview of Child Well-Being in Rich Countries offered a comprehensive and widely cited comparative analysis of children's well being in 21 of the richest countries of the world. Utilising an additive index the authors distilled a large amount of quantitative data relating to children's well being and were able to provide the most comprehensive snapshot of outcomes to date. Whilst an advantage of the method – and certainly a key factor in generating media coverage – was the way it allowed for a ranking of nations, recent debates in the comparative policy analysis literature have pointed to the advantages of methods that aim to classify nations into qualitatively distinct types rather than ranking them in league tables. These debates have particular force when multiple components of analysis are conceptually distinct or cases have widely varying contexts. Fuzzy set ideal type analysis (FSITA) has become an increasingly popular alternative approach to the additive index, precisely because it addresses these concerns. In this paper we explore the potential for using FSITA for the comparative analysis of children's well-being. Drawing on the same data and conceptual foundations as the 2007 UNICEF study we explore the potential advantages of utilising a diversity oriented method such as FSITA as tool for policy evaluation that eschews ranking in favour of classifying.

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