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Lynda Pickbourn

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.

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Mieke Meurs

This chapter illustrates the use of data triangulation to understand how Bulgarian small landholders use their land. Previous work has not satisfactorily explained observed behavior of these smallholders. Without information on intentionality, it is not possible to distinguish among causal mechanisms that might be driving the observed outcomes. I add in-depth interviews to household survey data, in order to provide information about the intentionality of the decision-makers. I argue that interview data show that in the complex, and limited, informational context, many decision-makers satisfice, and that the initial plans which satisficers evaluate are heavily influenced by local history.

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Carmen Diana Deere and Zachary B. Catanzarite

This chapter reports on a study that aimed to measure the intra-household distribution of wealth following a mixed methods approach. The first phase was dedicated to qualitative field research – including focus groups, interviews with key informants, and a study of assets markets – followed by a representative household asset survey in order to collect information on individual-level asset ownership. One of the main insights from the qualitative fieldwork was with respect to whom should be interviewed in the survey. Given the gender division of labor and men’s and women’s different experiences with asset markets as well as sources of information, we expected that the most reliable estimates of asset values might be obtained by interviewing a couple together, whenever possible. Data triangulation shows that the joint interviews probably improved the reliability of our estimates of housing and land values by reducing the tendency to guess when there were in fact missing markets or a person really did not know the answer. We had also expected that interviewing a couple together would improve the estimates by allowing them to reach a consensus on the potential asset value. The quantitative findings of a tendency toward men overvaluing and/or women undervaluing their dwelling thus conforms to this insight. We find evidence that the valuation of potential asset sales prices is likely to depend on the gender of the respondent, whether a couple are interviewed separately or together, and whether they are located in an urban or rural locale.

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Thomas E. Lambert and Michael Bewley

There are times when due to a lack of data or the impossibility of random assignment of cases, a researcher is limited in the use of the usual statistical and experimental methods to assess a particular intervention or ‘treatment’ given to subjects or to a target group or region. An assessment technique often used is quasi-experimental design, whereby although random assignment does not occur, threats to validity are reduced by comparing cases which are as similar as possible. One group becomes a quasi-experimental group which has received some form of ‘treatment’ whereas another is a comparison group which has not received the treatment. Such a research design is necessary when certain economic events occur or when economic development projects or new policies are undertaken in urban and regional economies, and there exist no two subregions which are exactly the same for the purposes of evaluating the effect of the events, projects or policies. Quasi-experimental design offers a solution for assessing the impacts of different urban and regional phenomena.

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Susan K. Schroeder

Business cycles are a notoriously elusive phenomenon for theorists, practitioners, and policy-makers. They are just one of a multitude of cyclical behaviors that a capitalist market economy exhibits. Detecting them requires a clear vision not only of the dynamics that generate them, but also of how to approach isolating the cyclical component in time series data. This chapter provides an overview of the theoretical approaches to thinking about what causes business cycles, the ways in which time series analysis has been used to detect cyclical patterns in data, and a discussion of the methodological challenges that heterodox economists face when selecting time series techniques and the advantages they have for more clearly understanding the dynamics which lie behind data.

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Lynne Chester

Industry sector analysis is generally static and framed narrowly in terms of composition, employment, and investment, thus ignoring the process and many outcomes of structural change as well as the distributional consequences. This chapter discusses an analysis of the Australian electricity sector, often hailed as the exemplar of global electricity sector liberalization, using a mixed methods approach. The research design was guided by the study’s theoretical framework – Régulation theory – which takes into account a wide range of factors driving change over time, and incorporates more than economic concepts. The chapter’s discussion covers the research design for the Australian study which transformed its theoretical framework to an empirical representation, the multiple data collection methods and data sources used, the steps taken to develop the study’s critical content analysis of documents, the key findings of the analysis, and some observations about the study’s analytical framework, triangulation, and mixed methods research design.

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Edited by Frederic S. Lee and Bruce Cronin

Despite the important critiques of the mainstream offered by heterodox economics, the dominant method remains econometrics. This major new Handbook provides an invaluable introduction to a range of alternative research methods better suited for analysing the social data prominent in heterodox research projects, including survey, historical, ethnographic, experimental, and mixed approaches, together with factor, cluster, complex, and social network analytics. Introductions to each method are complemented by descriptions of applications in practice.
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Luigino Bruni and Pier Luigi Porta

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Ed Diener and Louis Tay

National accounts of subjective well-being survey citizens about their subjective well-being, including life satisfaction, positive feelings and negative feelings. The results of these surveys are meant to inform policy discussions by revealing who is flourishing and who is suffering, and understanding the circumstances associated with this. The results can help policy discussions in several ways. First, they provide metrics for assessing the value of non-market variables, such as clean air and social support. Second, the subjective well-being surveys can pinpoint which groups and regions are suffering, and help point to the potential causes of this. Third, the national accounts of well-being provide a metric for assessing subjective well-being, which is of value in itself as citizens highly value ‘happiness’. Fourth, high subjective well-being is known to have a beneficial influence on health, social relationships and work productivity. Finally, the results of subjective well-being surveys can give a broad assessment of the quality of life of societies, and point to policies that might raise well-being.