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Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) in Public Policy Analysis: an Extensive Review

GPS, Vol. 7 No. 3, (2011)

This article provides a first systematic review of the connection between
public policy analysis and QCA (Qualitative Comparative Analysis) techniques,
with an emphasis on the state-of-the-art in QCA empirical applications.
QCA is first presented both as an approach and as a set of techniques
(crisp-set, multi-value and fuzzy-set QCA), both of which feature specific
characteristics. In a second section, it is argued that there is a preferential
connection between QCA and public policy analysis: in terms of research
design and also in terms of the actual goals and needs of policy-oriented
research. Further, the bulk of the article contains an exhaustive survey of
empirical applications published so far. To do so, a typology of applications
is developed along two dimensions: the stages in the policy process (from
agenda-setting and policy initiation to policy evaluation) and the level at
which the ‘cases’ or units of analysis are empirically defined (from micro to
macro). A total of 143 applications are surveyed, gathered in 16 clusters
according to the two dimensions in the typology. For all these applications,
the focus is laid on the concrete ways in which QCA has been exploited,
with short indications on the research questions and research results. In conclusion,
the achievements reached so far, as well as some remaining limitations,
are discussed. Some of the most promising avenues for further research
are also sketched, in terms of ‘mixed’ methods designs, causal mechanisms,
‘casing strategies’, and unexploited ‘niches’ both in terms of levels
of analysis and stages of policy processes.

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