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Qualitative Data

Qualitative research tools range from participatory assessments to ethnographic and sociological case studies, and institutional to political investigations. Some of these tools are described below in Table C. These tools help in gathering information that household surveys are not able to capture, or can capture only partially, including:
  • Subjective dimensions of poverty and variations in perceptions along gender, urban/rural, or ethnicity lines;
  • Barriers that poor people themselves believe are stopping them from advancing;
  • Intra-household inequalities; poor people’s priorities for action;
  • Cultural factors determining poverty, such as gender roles and some traditional beliefs;
  • Political factors determining poverty, such as trust, corruption, and conflict;
  • Certain social factors determining poverty, such as the role of community networks.

The tools may also help in the design appropriate household survey questionnaires-- for example, in the section on reasons for use or non-use of health and education facilities. Finally, the tools may help for assessing the validity of survey results at the local level and to evaluate how much general policy design should consider the heterogeneity of local conditions.

Table C: Data Collection Methods for Qualitative and Participatory Assessments

Data Collection in:Methods
Beneficiary Assessments Participant observation and more systematic data collection methods like structured interviews over a limited time span.
Ethnographic InvestigationsAnthropological research techniques, especially direct observation, to analyze the influence of ethnicity, gender, and village stratification on the household and group well-being and behavior.
Longitudinal Village StudiesWide variety of methods ranging from direct observation and recording (tabulation), periodic semi-structured interviews with key informants (for example, health center staff) and village population, to survey interviews in several different observation periods.
Participatory Assessments Ranking, mapping, diagramming, and scoring methods are prominent besides open interviews and participant observation. The time horizon of participatory assessments is often short. They build on local populations describing and analyzing their own reality surrounding poverty and well-being.

Participatory assessments can help policy makers determine the type of indicators important for the poor—is it housing, employment, or income?. They can also capture information that other sources cannot capture, for example, the incidence and effect of domestic violence.

Beneficiary and participatory assessments, which can take different forms, also involve the population more than household surveys. In town-hall or village meetings, citizen groups or their representatives can discuss poverty problems and policies, rank what they consider the causes of poverty, and map out new infrastructures in actual planning exercises. Individual interviews can investigate the problems of women or children in households. Participatory methods do not necessarily guarantee, though, that all groups in the community are given an equal voice. There is a danger that women may be under-represented. This danger may be even more present for the very poor. (See Beneficiary Assessment and Participatory Poverty Assessments in the PSIA website for more information).
 
Whenever possible, it is important to link participatory and qualitative investigations with household surveys and population censuses in a formal way. This can be done by:

  • collecting variables in participatory studies that allow for easy comparison with regional or national averages obtained from quantitative sources;
  • designing qualitative case studies so that they are done on sub-samples of larger surveys; and
  • following formal sampling and data recording procedures that allow for systematic analysis and replicability of qualitative results.

 




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