Illumination with a Dim Bulb? What Do Demographers Learn by Employing Text Analysis Software and Narrative Approaches?

Michael J. White, Brown University
Maya Judd, Brown University
Simone Poliandri, Brown University

We examine the potential gains and pitfalls from the incorporation of qualitative and mixed methods into demographic analysis. We attempt to go beyond standard understandings of augmenting demographic analysis with a qualitative approach, hoping to point the way to improved use of such techniques. Although there has been discussion of mixed methods, a gap remains regarding the evaluation of how best to integrate quantitative and qualitative findings. We take up these matters in the context of the growing analytic power of contemporary text-analysis software packages. We illustrate the issues more directly with our own mixed methods research in two different projects. We draw on data collected in Ghana via a conventional survey augmented by in-depth interviews. We also draw on a project examining low fertility in Italy, which combines analysis of large nationally representative survey data with qualitative in-depth interviews with women across four cities in Italy.

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Presented in Session 33: Methodological Challenges in Studies of Couples and Families