The Meaning and the Implications of Heterogeneity for Social Science Research
12 Pages Posted: 28 May 2013
Date Written: May 28, 2013
The concept of ‘heterogeneity’ is much invoked in social science research especially in disciplines like psychology, sociology and anthropology and is now an integral part of economics in sub-disciplines like industrial organization, entrepreneurship, behavioral economics, and similar fields. This paper examines the fundamentals of the concept of heterogeneity – which I relate to the distinction between quantity and quality. This distinction is related also to the distinctions between simple and complex phenomena and to that between social and natural phenomena in a manner I explain. I offer a conceptual framework for the demarcation of situations in which quantitative methods may be expected to work well, and, by implication, when not. I imagine the insights yielded by this framework are not new to my readers, but suggest that there is some added value and novelty to this particular formulation which helps to draw out the implications of these insights.
Keywords: heterogeneity, social-science research, quantity, quality, complexity
JEL Classification: B41, B53, L26
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation