Household histories and methodological triangulation
The article uses the experience from the impact evaluation of a development programme to argue two points: first, the collection of household histories is a useful methodological tool, and, second, their analytical value is further enhanced by combining them with quantitative data. After giving examples of household histories, we first discuss what we call the ‘practical–methodological aspects’ of this approach, by presenting theories and perspectives on the household, the household development cycle and on the use of life and family histories as methods of data collection. Thereafter, we move to analytical–methodological aspects, where we argue that household histories are case studies, and discuss the insights that they may yield. We contend that case studies’ potential for generalization is grossly underrated but nevertheless acknowledge the serious analytical challenges associated with such a strategy and argue that generalizations must take the form of ‘social mechanisms’, i.e. as ‘tendential causality’ rather than general laws or propositions. Finally, we argue for the combination of qualitative case studies with quantitative data, demonstrating how the household histories analytically enrich survey data, and vice versa.