Combining the Quantitative and Qualitative Approaches to Poverty Measurement and Analysis
This paper highlights the key characteristics of the quantitative and qualitative approaches to poverty measurement and analysis, examines the strengths and weaknesses of each approach, and analyzes the potential for combining the two approaches in analytical work on poverty. The main conclusion of this paper is that sole reliance on either only the quantitative approach or only the qualitative approach in measuring and analyzing poverty is often likely to be less desirable than combining the two approaches. This is because there are limits to a purely quantitative approach as well as a purely qualitative approach to poverty measurement and analysis. Each approach has an appropriate time and place, but in most cases both approaches will generally be required to address different aspects of a problem and to answer questions which the other approach cannot answer as well or cannot answer at all. The need to combine the two approaches in analytical work on poverty cannot be overemphasized. There are three key ways to combine the quantitative and qualitative approaches: (i) integrating methodologies; (ii) confirming, refuting, enriching, and explaining the findings of one approach with those of the other; and (iii) merging the findings of the two approaches into one set of policy recommendations. Some ways in which the integration of methodologies can be achieved are: using quantitative survey data to determine the individuals/communities to be studied through the qualitative approach; using the quantitative survey to design the interview guide of the qualitative survey; using qualitative work to determine stratification of the quantitative sample; using qualitative work to determine the design of the quantitative survey questionnaire; using qualitative work to pretest the quantitative survey questionnaire; and/or using qualitative analyses to refine the poverty index. 'Confirming' or 'refuting' are achieved by verifying quantitative results through the qualitative approach. 'Enriching' is achieved by using qualitative work to identify issues or obtain information on variables not obtained by quantitative surveys. 'Examining' refers to generating hypothesis from qualitative work for testing through the quantitative approach. 'Explaining' involves using qualitative work to understand unanticipated results from quantitative data. In principle, each of these mechanisms may operate in either direction -- from qualitative to quantitative approaches or vice versa. 'Merging' involves analyzing the information provided both by the quantitative approach as well as the qualitative approach to derive one set of policy recommendations. The quantitative and qualitative approaches are being increasingly combined in analytical work on poverty, but there remains scope for further strengthening the links between them.
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