Effective rural development (RD) policy requires transparent goals, specific objectives, well-defined metrics to measure success, and rigorous evaluation to justify sound policy. Such evaluation can employ aggregate indicators of impact (a macro approach) and/or more disaggregated information (a micro approach). Each has its place. Changes in population and population structure provide a key macro indicator of the success of rural development policy, since individuals reveal the attractiveness of rural areas by ‘voting with their feet’. By using additional data on the factors that attract people to rural areas, the targeting of rural development policy can be improved. Policymakers frequently need to examine specific policy initiatives in detail to determine their impact, if any, and how and why they achieve their effects. The example of farm diversification policy in the EU illustrates that information obtained from case studies can help not only to elaborate the impact of policy but also illuminate how that impact is generated. Without complementary in-depth inquiry, scope for making sense of quantitative indicators, which have been the primary focus of evaluation in the EU, is limited; but without a broad base of measurement, the usefulness of insights derived from case study analysis is also restricted.