A History of Causal Analysis in the Social Sciences

  • Sondra N. BarringerEmail author
  • Scott R. Eliason
  • Erin Leahey
Part of the Handbooks of Sociology and Social Research book series (HSSR)


In this chapter we provide an overview of the history of causal analysis in the social sciences. We review literature published from the mid-1800s to the present day, tracing the key strains of thought that lead to our current understandings of causal analysis in the social sciences. Given space limitations, we focus on three of the most important strands of causal analysis – those based on (1) constant conjunction and regularity accounts, (2) correlational and path analytic techniques, and (3) potential outcomes and counterfactual frameworks. We then return to the complexity of a Weberian approach, which contains nearly all of the elements of these three major frameworks into a single case-oriented method to causal analysis. We conclude by speculating on the future of causal analysis in the social sciences.


Structural Equation Model Causal Effect Causal Analysis Average Treatment Effect Female Labor Force Participation 
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.



The authors would like to thank Stephen L. Morgan and Robin Stryker for their invaluable time and comments, which helped to make this chapter all the better. We, of course, are solely responsible for any remaining errors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sondra N. Barringer
    • 1
    Email author
  • Scott R. Eliason
    • 1
  • Erin Leahey
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA

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