Journal Articles

Anderson, Gary L. and Janelle Scott. 2012. Toward an Intersectional Understanding of Process Causality and Social Context. Qualitative Inquiry 18 (8): 674-685.

Abstract: Maxwell and Donmoyer both argue in this issue of Qualitative Inquiry that narrow definitions of causality in educational research tend to disqualify qualitative research from influence (and funding) among policy makers. They propose a process view of causality that would allow qualitative researchers to make causal claims more grounded in the thick description of practice settings. In this article, we build on this notion of process causality, but further argue that unless we also broaden traditional notions of context in qualitative research, we will continue to seek policy solutions primarily at individual, local institutional, and cultural levels. Although qualitative researchers have made progress in acknowledging the intersectionality of race, class, and gender at the cultural level, this intersectionality seldom extends to macro level structures and forces, in part because current notions of causality make such links difficult at low levels of inference. Borrowing on Donmoyer’s notion of preponderance of evidence, we suggest a way to use process causality as a scaffolding for multilevel analysis.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Please discuss the authors’ ideas related to grounding causal claims in practice as a way to better understand relationships between factors.
  2. How do researchers’ considerations of causality differ in quantitative versus qualitative studies?
  3. Please discuss what opportunities mixed-methods approaches offer to understanding causality.


Cook, Thomas D. et al. 2010. “Contemporary Thinking About Causation in Evaluation: A Dialogue With Tom Cook and Michael Scriven.” American Journal of Evaluation 31(1): 105 -117.

Abstract: Legitimate knowledge claims about causation have been a central concern among evaluators and applied researchers for several decades and often have been the subject of heated debates. In recent years these debates have resurfaced with a renewed intensity, due in part to the priority currently being given to randomized experiments by many funders of evaluation studies, such as the Institute for Educational Sciences. In this dialogue, which took place at Western Michigan University in October 2008, two of the field’s leading theorists and methodologists, Thomas D. Cook and Michael Scriven, described their current thinking and views about causation and causal inference in evaluation. They also discussed recent methodological developments for cause-probing investigations that sometimes produce results comparable to those produced by randomized experiments. Both Cook and Scriven prepared clarifying postscripts after reading the edited transcript.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What role does the concept of causation play in modern research studies, particularly in terms of evaluation research?
  2. What perspectives do the two methodologists interviewed in this article provide on causal inference in evaluation research?
  3. What have been the strengths and weaknesses of using randomized controlled trials (RCTs) in evaluation research?


Lin, Eric S., and Hamid E. Ali. 2009. Military Spending and Inequality: Panel Granger Causality Test. Journal of Peace Research 46 (5): 671-685.

Abstract: The relationship between military spending and economic inequality is not well documented within the empirical literature, while numerous studies have uncovered the linkages between military spending and other macroeconomic variables, such as economic growth, unemployment, purchasing power parity, black market premium, poverty and investment. The purpose of this article is to examine the causal relationship between military spending and inequality using BVC and SIPRI data across 58 countries from 1987 to 1999. Panel unit root tests indicate that two inequality measures (Theil and EHII) under consideration are likely to be non-stationary. The authors’ work addresses the adverse implications of modeling with non-stationary variables, since this omission casts serious doubt on the reliability of the relationship between military spending and inequality. The recently developed panel Granger non-causality tests provide no evidence to support the causal relationship in either direction between the military spending and the change in economic inequality. The results are consistently robust to alternative data sources for military spending, to alternative definitions of the inequality measures, to the log transformation of the military spending, to the deletion of some data points, and to the division of OECD and non-OECD countries. Finally, the impulse responses and variance decompositions based on the panel vector autoregressive regression model are consistent with the findings from Granger non-causality tests.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Please discuss the researchers’ approach to utilizing data across a time series to examine the causal relationship between military spending and inequality in 58 countries.
  2. Discuss how the authors shape their analysis to adopt the concept of Granger causality to empirically test for a causal relationship.
  3. Discuss the findings of the article, particularly in terms of finding no causality between the two factors.  What may be possible future directions in this line of research?


Meierrieks, Daniel, and Thomas Gries. 2013. Causality Between Terrorism and Economic GrowthJournal of Peace Research 50 (1): 91-104.

Abstract: This article analyzes the causal relationship between terrorism and economic growth, running a series of tests for Granger non–causality with panel data for a maximum of 160 countries from 1970 to 2007. The authors find that the causal relationship between terrorism and growth is heterogeneous over time and across space. They argue that the temporal causal heterogeneity can be explained by shifting geographical and ideological patterns in terrorism associated with the end of the Cold War. Different causal mechanics across countries are ascribed to a variety of country–specific factors (the level of politico–economic development, a country’s cultural affiliation, the intensity and persistence of terrorist activity, and the level of political instability). These factors govern a country’s robustness to shocks from terrorism and the extent to which terrorism is motivated by economic factors. For the Cold War era, economic growth is found to have swayed terrorism for Latin American countries in intermediate development positions that were politically unstable and experienced strong terrorist activity. For the post–Cold War era, terrorism is found to be detrimental to growth for African and Islamic countries with low levels of political openness, high levels of political instability, and strong terrorist activity. The study’s findings help to better understand the conflicting evidence on the terrorism–economy nexus and to give more solid counter-terrorism advice.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Please discuss what causal relationship the authors find between terrorism and economic growth for the 160 countries analyzed over the time series of this study.
  2. Discuss how authors make the case against homogeneity, arguing that causal variation over time is explained by a variety of factors (i.e. ideological realignments, socio-economic development, etc.).
  3. How are the author’s hypotheses written to test their propositions on causality?
  4. Discuss how the authors framed their data collection and the use of subsamples to test their hypotheses as part of their design to show causality.