University Singapore University of Social Science (SUSS)
Subject SSC211e: Social Science Research Methods

Question

A research study was recently conducted in Singapore to investigate how chronic debt affects the psychological functioning and economic decision-making of the poor. It sought to shed more light on the burdens of being poor and the causes of the poverty trap.

Based on quasi-experimental evidence from a charity debt-relief program, 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 the 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.

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

  • Recognize and explain the reasons why social science research is a valuable way to understand poverty, with reference to this study. Furthermore, explain the reasons why some people prefer the use of non-scientific ways to understand poverty instead.
  • 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.
  • “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 recognize 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.
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