Comparative Analysis for Theory Development: Reflections on a Study of Women’s Empowerment

Written by

Francesca R. Jensenius

Former employee


Methodological texts about comparative work have focused overwhelmingly on controlled comparisons aimed at causal inference. To show the range of possible goals and approaches, this piece reflects on our own choices while studying the state and women’s empowerment in Norway, Japan, and the United States. We show how our research design evolved with our theoretical thinking, and explain that we did not select comparative “cases,” but rather diverse contexts with interesting variation in our main concept of interest. Finally, we discuss how we constructed multi-cultural research teams to take advantage of insider and outsider perspectives during fieldwork.