This report draws from both quantitative and qualitative methods to paint a fuller picture of Roma living conditions. Both approaches have distinctive benefits and drawbacks. Quantitative methods are useful for illustrating where Roma stand relative to non-Roma populations in individual countries and for comparing Roma populations across different countries. On the other hand, data on Roma are notoriously unreliable and difficult to attain. Even basic population figures are subject to dispute. Since Roma often do not self-identify as Roma, survey-based research has serious limitations. Still, quantitative data offers useful comparisons of welfare measures that can improve policy analysis and responses.
Although quantitative research shows that Roma poverty is distinctive, it does not provide an adequate basis for understanding the particular dynamics that underlie Roma poverty. Here, qualitative research has the greatest impact. Qualitative research can identify social processes, mechanisms, and relations between variables that are difficult to discern by looking at numbers alone. For example, the empirical analysis presented in chapter 3 shows that much of the gap between Roma and non-Roma welfare is likely due to factors such as discrimination and exclusion, which cannot be assessed empirically. Therefore, qualitative research provides a sharper picture of Roma living conditions in different communities and emphasizes the diversity of Roma populations, allowing for a better understanding of interconnections between causes of poverty. Carefully constructed qualitative surveys conducted by researchers in Central and Eastern Europe are the primary source for this analysis.
This qualitative overview research highlights how Roma perceive their poverty situation in their own words. Yet qualitative research has drawbacks as well. It tends to provide a snapshot of a single area, emphasizing certain factors over others with biases that may reflect the researchers’ specific concerns. This is particularly important for this study, as different research teams in each country conducted the qualitative studies with different foci and depth. While these caveats should be kept in mind, the combination of quantitative and qualitative analysis provides a complementary set of perspectives and a better starting point for analysis and policymaking.