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Combining the Quantitative and Qualitative Approaches to Poverty Measurement and Analysis

Listed author(s):
  • Howard White

    (Institute of Development Studies)

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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Paper provided by EconWPA in its series Development and Comp Systems with number 0505003.

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Length: 42 pages
Date of creation: 03 May 2005
Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpdc:0505003
Note: Type of Document - pdf; pages: 42
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  1. Ravallion, Martin, 1996. "How Well Can Method Substitute for Data? Five Experiments in Poverty Analysis," World Bank Research Observer, World Bank Group, vol. 11(2), pages 199-221, August.
  2. Hentschel, J. & Lanjouw, P., 1996. "Constructing an Indicator of Consumption for the Analysis of Poverty. Principles and Illustrations with Reference to Ecuador," Papers 127, World Bank - Living Standards Measurement.
  3. Ravallion, Martin & Datt, Gaurav & van de Walle, Dominique, 1991. "Quantifying Absolute Poverty in the Developing World," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 37(4), pages 345-361, December.
  4. Narayan, D., 1996. "Toward Participatory Research," Papers 307, World Bank - Technical Papers.
  5. Hill,Polly, 1986. "Development Economics on Trial," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521310963, December.
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