Competing Interpretations: Human Wellbeing and the Use of Quantitative and Qualitative Methods in Development Policy and Practice

J. Allister McGregor, Sarah Coulthard, Laura Camfield

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The renewed focus on human wellbeing in international policy and academic debate encourages us to think again about how quantitative and qualitative methods are combined in understanding development and poverty. During the 2000s the Q-Squared movement provided a wide range of valuable and insightful material that explored the possibilities for and obstacles to combining qualitative and quantitative research methods (Kanbur and Schaffer eds. 2007). Since then a growing number of national and international statistical agencies have recognised the importance of seeking to assess the impacts of governance and public policy in terms of human wellbeing and in doing so they are adopting a hybrid framework that takes account of the objective and subjective dimensions of human wellbeing (UK ONS 2011; OECD 2011). This chapter presents the argument that if development policy and practice is to promote a focus on human wellbeing then it is necessary to consider what types of data are required to do that. The current ‘business as usual’ in international development focuses mainly on material wellbeing and tentatively and occasionally stretches out to encompass human development outcomes (Alkire and Foster 2011). This chapter argues that in order to assess a more holistic conception of human wellbeing (McGregor and Sumner 2010) then it is necessary to generate three types of data: objective, subjective and inter-subjective . In order to achieve this both quantitative and qualitative methods are required and it is necessary to reconsider how these are sequenced and mixed to generate that.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMixed methods research in poverty and vulnerability
Subtitle of host publicationSharing ideas and learning lessons
EditorsLaura Camfield, Keetie Roelen
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
ISBN (Electronic)9781137452528 , 9781137452504
ISBN (Print)9781137452504
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2015


  • wellbeing

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