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Qualitative Research at EDI

We are happy to achieve a qual-quant balance in our work

EDI have increasingly embraced Qualitative methods to contextualise and inform the quantitative data and in reality there is little analytical work we do that does not involve some form of qual-quan combination.  Qualitative work, in the form of focus group discussions or ‘life stories’, form first person accounts of the lives of people.

Poverty research is often behavioural (responses) and while it will never be possible to know exactly and completely what it feels like to be the respondent, at least certain types of experiences can be relatively objectively brought across: for example losing a child, feeling powerless in front of the local policeman, living in fear of a neighbour who threatens to burn down your house, or being proud about the modern dwelling you were able to build through hard work on the farm, we can aim to provide data that attempts to explain people’s behaviour ) given their desires and environment (stimuli).  Some example projects with large qualitative components are listed below

Moving out of Poverty – World Bank

This project uses an innovative mix of qualitative and quantitative research methods to understand movements out of poverty over the past 10 years in Kagera. Using the KHDS data set an econometric prediction was made of the growth path a respondent was expected to follow between 1993 and 2004, based on what was known about him/her in 1993. Life histories were then conducted in matched sets of people who had similar predictions, but different outcomes. Thus a treatment and comparison group set-up is mimicked. The life histories were complemented with other qualitative data collection techniques such as focus group discussions and key informant interviews. Contrary to many qualitative studies, this survey maintains a very rigid sampling procedure (using the KHDS respondents as our sampling frame), which will allow us to make firmer inferences.

Funding for this work comes from a 16-country study to understand the determinants of poverty from the bottom up. The global effort is directed by Deepa Narayan at the World Bank, the author of the well-known study ‘Voices of the Poor’. EDI’s contribution to the study was subsequently published in Journal of Development Studies and summarised on the id21 website.

Social Capital and Schooling – University of Copenhagen

This project designed and implemented a qualitative instrument to look at the determinants of schooling in the surveyed villages. Very specifically it was geared towards understanding an empirical fact observed by researchers from the University of Copenhagen in the data, namely that villages with high ethnic fractionalization performed worse in terms of schooling than those with low ethnic fractionalization. The qualitative work was conducted to feed back into the quantitative work: to assess the likelihood of several possible scenario’s to explain the empirical observation and
determine strategies to test them in the data. Please contact the University of Copenhagen for more information.

Mixed Methods Research Into Income Mobility

Using qualitative research methods, including focus group discussions and life histories this project aimed to gain deeper understanding of the forces that underpin long-term welfare. A team of researchers revisited 4 KHDS villages in order learn from participants what they saw as the primary factors relating to upward and downward income and welfare mobility. This research project, initiated by the Social Protection Unit at the World Bank (Team Task Leader Hans Hoogeveen) and executed in collaboration with the Economic and Social Research Foundation (ESRF). Report writing was done by ESRF researchers: download report