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date: 20 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This article emphasizes various ways by which the study of mechanisms can make quantitative research more useful for causal inference. It concentrates on three aspects of the role of mechanisms in causal and statistical inference: how an understanding of the mechanisms at work can improve statistical inference by guiding the specification of the statistical models to be estimated; how mechanisms can strengthen causal inferences by improving our understanding of why individuals do what they do; and how mechanism-based models can strengthen causal inferences by showing why, acting as they do, individuals bring about the social outcomes they do. There has been a surge of interest in mechanism-based explanations, in political science as well as in sociology. Most of this work has been vital and valuable in that it has sought to clarify the distinctiveness of the approach and to apply it empirically.

Keywords: causal inference, mechanisms, quantitative research, political science, sociology, statistical inference, statistical models

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