Why Use Ethnography? To Contextualize Quantitative Hypothesis

One project, for example, used ethnography to examine the effects of an intensive form of policing. The police had put targeted pressure on street corners where drug activity had been observed. Dealing went down on those corners — “we had lots of quantitative evidence to show the drop” — and the interpretation was that drug sales had dropped, or that possibly the dealers had moved to other neighborhoods. But “the ethnographic research revealed that the sellers hadn’t moved at all. They had stayed in their original neighborhoods but had moved indoors, into apartment buildings near their outdoor markets. That created a new set of different but very serious problems.”

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This takeaway was derived from Getting Inside the Story.