Types of Causes

Chapter
Part of the Handbooks of Sociology and Social Research book series (HSSR)

Abstract

The complexity of actual cause and effect relationships in social life can lead quickly to confused thinking and muddled discussions. Helpful here are distinctions that allow one to speak about some causes as different from others. Our chapter describes several distinctions among causes that we find especially useful for social science. First, taking a broad view of what “causes” are, we discuss some issues concerning whether causes are manipulable or preventable. Then, we consider the distinction between proximal and distal causes, connecting these to concepts of mediation and indirect effects. Next, we propose ways that concepts related to the distinction between necessary and sufficient causes in case-oriented research may be also useful for quantitative research on large samples. Afterward, we discuss criteria for characterizing one cause as more important than another. Finally, we describe ultimate and fundamental causes, which do not concern the relationship between an explanatory variable and outcome so much as the causes of properties of the systems in which more concrete causal relationships exist.

Keywords

Granger Causality Standardize Coefficient School Choice Attributable Fraction Educational Difference 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology and Institute for Policy ResearchNorthwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA
  2. 2.Department of SociologyNorthwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA

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