Social Science Research methods

A research study was recently conducted in Singapore to investigate how chronic debt affects

psychological functioning and economic decision-making of the poor. It sought to shed more

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light on the burdens of being poor and the causes of poverty trap.

Based on quasi-experimental evidence from a charity debt-relief programme, this study has

shown that poor people with more debt accounts cleared would exhibit better cognitive

performance, lower anxiety and less present bias. The mental-accounting toll from owing

chronic debts and living under scarcity saps the mental bandwidth of an individual and

impairs his/her ability to make right decisions, which may in turn lead to poverty reinforcing

and perpetuating itself.

The journal paper for this study is available at https://www.pnas.org/content/116/15/7244.

Please analyse the paper, and answer all of the following:

(a) Recognise and explain the reasons why social science research is a valuable way to

understand poverty, with reference to this study. Furthermore, explain reasons why

some people prefer the use of non-scientific ways to understand poverty instead.

(40 marks)

(b) Evaluate whether this study is cross-sectional or longitudinal, and discuss the

evidence that defends your choice. Also describe possible challenges that the

researchers of this study might face during data collection, when they tried to adhere

closely to the study timepoint(s) chosen for data collection.

(30 marks)

(c) “When it comes to studying poverty, positivist social science (PSS) is a more

objective approach than interpretive social science (ISS), while ISS is a more ethical

approach than PSS.” State whether you agree or disagree with this remark, and justify

your stand. Your justification must show an ability to recognise and distinguish

between relevant features of PSS and ISS, as well as to offer sound illustrations in the

context of poverty, either from the study or from additional research.

(30 marks)

Question (100 marks)

There are many factors that affect the competitiveness of a country. Various researchers have

attempted to define competitiveness and assess those factors which they consider vital to

competitiveness. Consequently, a diversity of country ranking reports on this subject matter

has emerged.

Since 1979, the World Economic Forum has been conducting an annual global study on

national competitiveness and publishing its findings through the Global Competitiveness

Report every year. This study aims to offer insights into countries around the world, so that

policymakers, business leaders and other stakeholders can explore more effective strategies

for pursuing economic growth in a sustainable and inclusive manner. For its latest run in

2019, this study assessed how 141 economies had fared on 103 indicators under the Global

Competitiveness Index 4.0 (GCI 4.0).

The Global Competitiveness Report 2019 can be found via http://www3.weforum.org/docs/

WEF_TheGlobalCompetitivenessReport2019.pdf. Please analyse the report (especially

Chapter 1, Chapter 2, section on “How to Read the Economy Profiles” and Appendix A), and

answer all of the following:

(a) Appraise why qualitative research is a less suitable approach than quantitative research

when we wish to perform comparative studies on competitiveness of numerous

countries. You must discuss at least TWO reasons clearly, and include supporting

illustrations drawn from the Global Competitiveness Report.

(30 marks)

(b) Evaluate the extent to which the Global Competitiveness Report is helpful in

providing an understanding of national competitiveness, and explain the basis of your

opinion. In your explanation, you should describe relevant merits AND deficiencies

of the study (featured by the Global Competitiveness Report), by drawing on the

relevant concepts taught in the course.

(50 marks)

(c) Develop a recommendation on how to improve one current indicator under GCI 4.0,

so that the index may reflect the level of competitiveness of a country better. Present

your rationale for the recommendation given. The current indicator chosen should be

specified clearly.

(20 marks)

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