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Optimal Matching and the Social Sciences

Describing Social Rhythms with Optimal Matching

Saturday 21 January 2006

2010 : published in Sociological Methods and Research

02-21-2007 New version: “Describing Social Rhythms with Optimal Matching”

This article addresses the question of cost setting in applying Optimal Matching (OM) to the social sciences. Drawing on the successful transposition of this method from coding theory to biology, it is argued that substitution costs should be carefully chosen so that they can capture social rhythms whereas insertion and deletion operations should be seldom used as they warp time, hence blur social regularities in the timing of sequences. It is suggested to use only substitution operations with time-dependent costs inversely proportional to transition frequencies. This dynamic Hamming dissimilarity measure is applied to the question of the scheduling of paid work (1985 and 1999 French time-use surveys, N = 7908). The quality of the taxonomy is assessed by comparing its average entropy with those of two standard OM analyses, and visually through aggregate and individual tempograms.

02-21-2007 New revised and updated version.

Text originally published as a CREST working paper (No 2006-01).