Field research for economists usually involves the administration of a survey instrument designed to yield quantitative data that can be used to test the predictions of an a priori theoretical model. In this chapter, I argue that qualitative methods can be valuable to the heterodox economist in generating hypotheses about economic phenomena, developing survey instruments and interpreting quantitative data. More importantly, the use of open-ended questions, unstructured interviews, and focus groups permit researchers to understand how and why certain decisions are made, from the perspective of the decision-makers themselves, while shedding light on the social and institutional context within which these decisions are made. I discuss my own experiences with using a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods to understand the role of gendered social norms of household provisioning in shaping the impact of remittances from migrant women on education expenditures of rural households in the Northern Region of Ghana.
Lynda Pickbourn and Smita Ramnarain
Qualitative and quantitative research methods are typically treated as distinct tools in economics research. This chapter explores the presumed analytical separation of these methods, questioning whether they are distinct from one another, or whether, in fact, they are interdependent and mutually informative avenues for social exploration. After reviewing the different arguments for and against the integration of these methods, we argue the latter: that is, that quantitative and qualitative research methods must each be, and are, necessarily related to the other in the construction of empirically grounded theory. In addition, if economic research is to adequately explain the complexities of social reality, both qualitative and quantitative methods can and should also be used in conjunction with one another (for instance, through data triangulation and case-study methods).