Global Poverty Research Group

Genuine Q2 - Combining quantitative and qualitative reseach to understand poverty dynamics in Uganda


Background to the research

Over the last few years there has been an increased focus on genuinely combining qualitative and quantitative (‘Q2’) research methodologies to further our understanding of poverty. Despite this however, there are still relatively few LDC based attempts that have successfully achieved this. Most applied papers focus on the use of participatory techniques and simply cross-reference to separate quantitative findings (e.g. Barahona et al. 2004 for Malawi, Lawson et al. Uganda).[1] While in some respects such work is “breakthrough”, in the main it has made only a limited contribution to deepening analysis of poverty because they rarely closely integrate the sampling frame, they use group based methods in public (participatory appraisal) and the analytical methods applied to data collected by participatory appraisal remain opaque. 

In consideration of the above, in this research we integrate qualitative and quantitative research, using Ugandan two wave panel data (1992/99), visiting the same households to obtain life history information. In particular we focus on some of the methodological issues in adopting a genuine Q2 approach and on a few key ‘cross cutting themes’ mentioned in Research Programme to Support the Eradication of Poverty in Uganda. We also limit our investigation to the main issues highlighted by households as being particularly important in relation to poverty dynamics. These include issues HIV/AIDS/Chronic Illness, Assets and Gender inequalities associated with chronic and transient poverty.


We carried out life history interviews on the households that were in Uganda’s nationally representative sample of 1,103 households, and had been interviewed for quantitative data in both 1992 and 1999 (a two wave panel).[2]

The sampling of households was based on the proportions in the panel, with more than 40 households interviewed (comprising roughly equally proportions of households, across several districts and 3 regions, that were persistently poor, moved into poverty, moved out of poverty and have never been poor). For logistical, purposes and due to a restrictive budget, the majority (34) of the interviews took place in the 3 Central Region districts of Masaka, Mukono and Luwero. A further 9 households were collected in Kumi and Soroti in the Eastern Region and Apac in the Northern Region – some households of which formed a three wave quantitative panel form the 1992/99 national household panel and the 2005 Northern Ugandan Survey.

The main qualitative method of detailed life histories followed the approach of a semi-structured format providing comparative information about households as well as record responses to open-ended questions that arise during the course of interviews.  The latter focused on critical incidents, events and factors identified by households and information that households identify as important but was not part of the questionnaire design.

The life history and timeline traced an individual’s life from childhood to the present day, focusing on key events. As with Bird and Shinyekwa (Chronic Poverty Research Centre Working Paper, 2003), by talking to a person about their life we also hoped to identify path-determination in individuals’ lives and to pinpoint key moments of choice – or the absence of choice, but with the advantage of also having robust quantitative panel data to underpin this.

Research Questions

As stated above, given that relatively few studies have integrating sampling frames for understanding poverty dynamics, one the main focus is to investigate some of the methodological issues involved in adopting such approaches. In addition, the purpose of the ‘Q2’ research is also ‘push forward’ our understanding of the processes that underpin poverty dynamics.

Specifically, we focus on the inter-relationship between the areas of ill health/HIV/AIDS, Assets, Gender and Chronic/Transient Poverty. Regardless of however complex the quantitative analysis, we are sometimes restricted by what, even national representative, panel and cross section data can inform us of (particularly when there are only 2 waves of panel data).  For example, in the preliminary quantitative analysis we find ill health to be associated with chronic and transient poverty – but this DOES NOT reveal to us the potentially more policy relevant stories/understandings relating to issues such as:

  • Does Ill Health Cause the Assets Sales?
  • If Distress Sales of Assets Do Occur Then at What Point Do Families Resort To Selling The Assets?
  • Does This Vary By The Profile Of The House?
  • Does A Household ‘Consumption Smooth’ (i.e. eat less) Before Selling Assets?
  • If Households Sells Assets in ‘Times of Crisis’ Which Assets Do They Sell First? and Are There Any Gender Differences?

In undertaking ‘Q2’ research we hope to start providing the answers to such questions, and show how genuine ‘Q2’ research can add real understanding regarding the  PROPOGATORS, MAINTAINERS AND INTERRPUTORS of poverty/poverty dynamics.


From a methodological perspective, although we realise that it is not ideal to revisit households that were last interviewed 6-7 years prior to the life history interview being undertaken, we demonstrate that when confronted with such scenarios that ‘Q2’ methods can elicit further understanding regarding the poverty dynamics of a household.

For example, and as we can see from the Chronically Poor Household example in the CPRC life history database the aggregated timeline enables us to easily view major events that have signified declines or upturns in a person life. For our example chronically poor household the aggregated quantitative analysis produced is generally supported. For example, both assets depletion and death/illness has been associated with Chronic/Deepening of Poverty. At a micro level, the household specific quantitative data also supports this. However, what the life history clearly provides is reasoning why this household has been unable to escape Chronic Poverty, based on 1992/99 consumption data. 

From a methodological perspective we found that using the life history and time line analysis allowed us to:

  • Corroborate/negate the aggregated and household level quantitative data
  • Provide more insightful findings regarding the reasons for poverty movements – including social, psychological, occupational reasons etc.
  • Quantify the impact (as perceived by the household) of each event on the subjective welfare status of the household.
  • Use methods that further interactions and assist interviewee recall – therefore hopefully heightening the quality of the recall information.
  • However, if at all possible, the ideal ‘Q2’ approach would be to ensure that when designing the collection of quantitative panel data should be designed to incorporate a life history collection – i.e. carry out life history and the wave of quantitative data collection within a very short time period of each other – this will build reliability of the data.

From a non-methodological perspective, amongst other things, we found:

  • Suggestions of direct causality between ill health and AIDS, and movements into poverty, with explanations regarding the processes that underpin this.
  • Households preference the types of assets sold ‘in times of crisis’ (e.g. luxury goods such as radios were commonly sold first), and the willingness, order and extent to which assets are sold varies greatly according to age, geographical location and socio-economic characteristics of the household members.
  • ‘Asset Smoothing’ is appears to be very common – e.g. in order to pay for medical bills/transport etc. food consumption was virtually always reduced before selling assets or obtaining loans.
  • Gender inequality through social networks was found to be present and may partly explain why higher proportions of Women Headed Households’s (WHH’s) are chronically poor.
  • In support of separate quantitative and qualitative evidence, increases in household size were identified by most households as a major cause of moving into poverty. A very common finding was for households to experience increased wealth, for household sizes to increase, but only 5-6 years later do the ‘delayed child costs’ of school fees etc. start causing the major monetary impact/problems.
  • The Q2 approach was particularly useful in identifying a households ‘potential vulnerability’ e.g. assess the extent to which a household may be about to adopt siblings of sick brothers and sisters.
  • In support of quantitative evidence, it appears that significantly larger proportions of women do not enter the labour market because of ‘limited contacts’ into the job market.
  • Limited access to land, and ‘disputed land’ cases, were particularly prevalent amongst poorer households, and appears to have deteriorated the welfare of status and long term security/planning of such households.

A forthcoming Global Poverty Research Group working paper provides more in depth findings in relation to the methodological approaches that were to combining quantitative and qualitative approaches, based on experiences from Uganda. An article in GPRG newsletter no. 5 can also be viewed…

In addition, we have also compiled a life history example database that can be viewed at the Chronic Poverty Research Centre (CPRC) website.

[1] A substantially more detailed literature review and background is provided in GPRG working paper no. 077.

[2] To ensure that the panel households were the same in both periods, a two part matching process was undertaken. The first stage matched the sex and age of the household head, allowing for an acceptable error range given uncertainty about precise ages etc. A second stage focused on those households whose head had changed over the period, for example where a household head had died and another member of the family had become the new head. See Lawson, McKay & Okidi, Working Paper GPRG-WPS-004, 2005, for further details.

Reseachers to contact for this project

David Lawson and David Hulme.