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How should economists analyze institutions? Comments on David Skarbek, ‘Qualitative research methods for institutional analysis’

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 February 2020

Mary M. Shirley*
Affiliation:
Ronald Coase Institute, Chevy Chase, VA, USA
*
*Corresponding author. Email: mshirley@coase.org

Abstract

David Skarbek argues that qualitative research methods can analyze institutions by exploiting complex evidence not accessible through quantitative methods. He suggests that well-done case studies and process tracing can meet some of the same tests of inference as statistical methods. Although Skarbek's critique and proposals mirror those of many other authors, including Ronald Coase, he nonetheless makes an important contribution. The brief, cogent, and instructive way he presents his advice and his defense of qualitative methods as a complement to mainstream methods rather than a confrontation, may be more persuasive than more confrontational arguments. As ‘datafication’ is quickly turning qualitative observations into quantitative data analyzed through machine learning, Skarbek's excellent advice on how to understand what is happening under different institutional settings could not be timelier.

Type
Comment
Copyright
Copyright © Millennium Economics Ltd 2020

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References

Bates, R. H., Greif, A., Levi, M., Rosenthal, J.-L., and Weingast, B. R. (1998), Analytic Narratives, Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
Coase, R. H. (1999), ‘Opening Address to the Annual Conference of the International Society of New Institutional Economics’, Washington, DC, USA, September 17, 1999.Google Scholar
Prüfer, J. and Prüfer, P. (1998), ‘Data Science for Institutional and Organizational Economics,’ in Menard, C. and Shirley, M. (eds), A Research Agenda for New Institutional Economics, Cheltenham: Elgar, pp. 248259.Google Scholar
Shirley, M. M. (2008), Institutions and Development, Cheltenham: Elgar.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Skarbek, D. (2020), ‘Qualitative Research Methods for Institutional Analysis,’ Journal of Institutional Economics, published online. doi.org/10.1017/S174413741900078X.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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How should economists analyze institutions? Comments on David Skarbek, ‘Qualitative research methods for institutional analysis’
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