In this paper, I describe the qualitative methods deployed in a series of investigations examining post-disaster recovery following Hurricane Katrina. I argue that qualitative methods, particularly ethnographic field interviews, are essential tools in contexts that the interpretive frameworks (mental models) of the research subjects play a dominant role in shaping broader patterns of social coordination. Given the importance, Austrian economists attribute to non-deterministic learning as the source of endogenous change and discovery in contexts of genuine uncertainty; I argue that this underutilized set of tools ought to be considered particularly valuable.
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This book project is part of the Crisis and Response to Hurricane Katrina project sponsored by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.
Virgil Storr is Director of Graduate Student Programs at the Mercatus Center and Research Associate Professor in the Department of Economics at George Mason University.
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This essay was prepared for the presidential address to the membership of the Society for the Development of Austrian Economics in San Antonio, Texas, November 22, 2009 and is an abbreviated version of the methodology chapter of my book The Cultural and Political Economy of Recovery: Social Learning in a Post-Disaster Environment, used here with permission from Routledge, Taylor Francis Group.
I wish to thank Christopher Coyne, Virgil Storr, Deirdre McCloskey, Peter Boettke, Steven Horwitz, and Peter Leeson for their helpful comments on an earlier draft of this paper and the Mercatus Center for their generous financial support in pursuing the field work that informs the arguments presented here. The usual caveat applies.
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Chamlee-Wright, E. Qualitative methods and the pursuit of economic understanding. Rev Austrian Econ 23, 321–331 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11138-010-0114-4