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Combining the Quantitative and Qualitative Approaches to Poverty Measurement and Analysis


  • 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.

Suggested Citation

  • Howard White, 2005. "Combining the Quantitative and Qualitative Approaches to Poverty Measurement and Analysis," Development and Comp Systems 0505003, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpdc:0505003
    Note: Type of Document - pdf; pages: 42

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    References listed on IDEAS

    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, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. Place, Frank & Adato, Michelle & Hebinck, Paul, 2007. "Understanding Rural Poverty and Investment in Agriculture: An Assessment of Integrated Quantitative and Qualitative Research in Western Kenya," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 35(2), pages 312-325, February.
    2. David Crosoer & Murray Leibbrandt & Ingrid Woolard, 2005. "Asset-based versus money metric poverty indices in South Africa: An assessment using the Chronic Poverty Research Centre RSA 2002 Survey," SALDRU/CSSR Working Papers 109, Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit, University of Cape Town.
    3. David Hulme, 2006. "Integrating Quantitative and Qualitative Research for Country Case Studies of Development," Economics Series Working Papers GPRG-WPS-063, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    4. Laura Camfield & Gina Crivello & Martin Woodhead, 2009. "Wellbeing Research in Developing Countries: Reviewing the Role of Qualitative Methods," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 90(1), pages 5-31, January.
    5. White, Howard, 2002. "Combining Quantitative and Qualitative Approaches in Poverty Analysis," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 511-522, March.
    6. Mert Bilgin, 2012. "The PEARL Model of Sustainable Development," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 107(1), pages 19-35, May.
    7. Dariush Hayati & Ezatollah Karami & Bill Slee, 2006. "Combining Qualitative and Quantitative Methods in the Measurement of Rural Poverty: The Case of Iran," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 75(3), pages 361-394, February.
    8. Radeny, Maren & van den Berg, Marrit & Schipper, Rob, 2012. "Rural Poverty Dynamics in Kenya: Structural Declines and Stochastic Escapes," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 40(8), pages 1577-1593.
    9. Christine Griffin & Laura Camfield, 2009. "Using Qualitative Methods with Poor Children in Urban Ethiopia: Opportunities & Challenges," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 90(1), pages 73-87, January.
    10. Nicola Jones & Andy Sumner, 2009. "Does Mixed Methods Research Matter to Understanding Childhood Well-Being?," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 90(1), pages 33-50, January.
    11. Ruth Alsop & Mette Bertelsen & Jeremy Holland, 2006. "Empowerment in Practice : From Analysis to Implementation," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 6980, September.
    12. Kanbur, Ravi & Shaffer, Paul, 2007. "Epistemology, Normative Theory and Poverty Analysis: Implications for Q-Squared in Practice," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 35(2), pages 183-196, February.
    13. Sabina Alkire, 2005. "Subjective Quantitative Studies of Human Agency," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 74(1), pages 217-260, October.
    14. Kanbur, Ravi, 2009. "Poverty and Distribution: Twenty Years Ago and Now," Working Papers 48918, Cornell University, Department of Applied Economics and Management.

    More about this item


    Poverty; qualitative approaches; mixed methods; PRA;

    JEL classification:

    • O - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth
    • P - Economic Systems

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