Most policy-oriented research focuses on the relative importance of competing independent variables in multivariate analyses. Instead of asking, "What is the net effect of each independent variable on the outcome?" Ragin asks, "What combinations of causally relevant conditions are consistently linked to the outcome?" In this approach causal conditions do not compete with each other; rather, they combine in different ways to produce the outcome. This alternate approach, which utilizes set-analytic techniques, allows for the possibility that there may be several paths to the same outcome, which in turn may differ by race and gender. This new approach is illustrated via a re-analysis of the Bell Curve data.

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