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Archive of posts filed under the Economics category.

The Trumpets of Lilliput

Gur Huberman pointed me to this paper by George Akerlof and Pascal Michaillat that gives an institutional model for the persistence of false belief. The article begins: This paper develops a theory of promotion based on evaluations by the already promoted. The already promoted show some favoritism toward candidates for promotion with similar beliefs, just […]

(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Evidence, Policy, and Understanding

[link] Kevin Lewis asked me what I thought of this article by Oren Cass, “Policy-Based Evidence Making.” That title sounds wrong at first—shouldn’t it be “evidence-based policy making”?—but when you read the article you get the point, which is that Cass argues that so-called evidence-based policy isn’t so evidence-based at all, that what is considered […]

“The following needs to be an immutable law of journalism: when someone with no track record comes into a field claiming to be able to do a job many times better for a fraction of the cost, the burden of proof needs to shift quickly and decisively onto the one making the claim. The reporter simply has to assume the claim is false until substantial evidence is presented to the contrary.”

Mark Palko writes: The following needs to be an immutable law of journalism: when someone with no track record comes into a field claiming to be able to do a job many times better for a fraction of the cost, the burden of proof needs to shift quickly and decisively onto the one making the […]

Incentive to cheat

Joseph Delaney quotes Matthew Yglesias writing this: But it is entirely emblematic of America’s post-Reagan treatment of business regulation. What a wealthy and powerful person faced with a legal impediment to moneymaking is supposed to do is work with a lawyer to devise clever means of subverting the purpose of the law. If you end […]

Benefits and limitations of randomized controlled trials: I agree with Deaton and Cartwright

My discussion of “Understanding and misunderstanding randomized controlled trials,” by Angus Deaton and Nancy Cartwright, for Social Science & Medicine: I agree with Deaton and Cartwright that randomized trials are often overrated. There is a strange form of reasoning we often see in science, which is the idea that a chain of reasoning is as […]

Nudge nudge, say no more

Alan Finlayson puts it well when he writes of “the tiresome business of informing and persuading people replaced by psychological techniques designed to ‘nudge’ us in the right direction.” I think that’s about right. Nudging makes sense as part of a package that already includes information and persuasion. For example, tell us that smoking causes […]

Your (Canadian) tax dollars at work

Retraction Watch links to this amazing (in a bad way) article by “The International Consortium of Investigators for Fairness in Trial Data Sharing” who propose that “study investigators be allowed exclusive use of the data for a minimum of 2 years after publication of the primary trial results and an additional 6 months for every […]

The problem of media concentration/deregulation “is usually treated as a series of unrelated problems, much like a cocaine addict who complains about his drug problem, bankruptcy, divorce, and encounters with loan sharks, but who never makes a causal connection between the items on the list”

Palko writes: There’s a huge problem that people aren’t talking about nearly enough. . . . Think about all of the recent news stories that are about or are a result of concentration/deregulation of media power and the inevitable consequences. Obviously, net neutrality falls under this category. So does the role that Facebook, and, to […]

Yes, Virginia, it can be rational to vote!

Carl Shulman correctly thought I’d be interested in this news item, “A single vote leads to a rare tie for control of the Virginia legislature”: A Republican seat flipped Democratic in a wild recount Tuesday – with the Democrat winning by a single vote – creating a rare 50-50 tie between the parties in the […]

Ready Money

Richard Reeves writes: Most of the people on the highest rung [which he elsewhere defines as the highest fifth of the income distribution] in America are in denial about their privilege. The American myth of meritocracy allows them to attribute their position to their brilliance and diligence, rather than to luck or a rigged system. […]

What’s the point of a robustness check?

Diomides Mavroyiannis writes: I am currently a doctoral student in economics in France, I’ve been reading your blog fo awhile and I have this question that’s bugging me. I often go to seminars where speakers present their statistical evidence for various theses. I was wondering if you could shed light on robustness checks, what is […]

I know less about this topic than I do about Freud.

Someone who I don’t know writes: Hi Andrew, I hope this email finds you well. Hey, that’s interesting: I’m on a first-name basis with this person who cares about my health, but I have no idea who he is. Or if he’s a bot. I guess a bot could care about my health too, inasmuch […]

I hate that “Iron Law” thing

Dahyeon Jeong wrote: While I was reading your today’s post “Some people are so easy to contact and some people aren’t”, I’ve come across your older posts including “Edlin’s rule for routinely scaling down published estimates.” In this post you write: Also, yeah, that Iron Law thing sounds horribly misleading. I’d not heard that particular […]

Fitting multilevel models when predictors and group effects correlate

Ryan Bain writes: I came across your ‘Fitting Multilevel Models When Predictors and Group Effects Correlate‘ paper that you co-authored with Dr. Bafumi and read it with great interest. I am a current postgraduate student at the University of Glasgow writing a dissertation examining explanations of Euroscepticism at the individual and country level since the […]

“A mixed economy is not an economic abomination or even a regrettably unavoidable political necessity but a natural absorbing state,” and other notes on “Whither Science?” by Danko Antolovic

So. I got this email one day, promoting a book that came with the following blurb: Whither Science?, by Danko Antolovic, is a series of essays that explore some of the questions facing modern science. A short read at only 41 pages, Whither Science? looks into the fundamental questions about the purposes, practices and future […]

Using Stan to improve rice yields

Matt Espe writes: Here is a new paper citing Stan and the rstanarm package. Yield gap analysis of US rice production systems shows opportunities for improvement. Matthew B. Espe, Kenneth G. Cassman, Haishun Yang, Nicolas Guilpart, Patricio Grassini, Justin Van Wart, Merle Anders, Donn Beighley, Dustin Harrell, Steve Linscombe, Kent McKenzie, Randall Mutters, Lloyd T. […]


Kevin Lewis points to a research article by Lawton Swan, John Chambers, Martin Heesacker, and Sondre Nero, “How should we measure Americans’ perceptions of socio-economic mobility,” which reports effects of question wording on surveys on an important topic in economics. They replicated two studies: Each (independent) research team had prompted similar groups of respondents to […]

Mick Cooney: case study on modeling loss curves in insurance with RStan

This is great. Thanks, Mick! All the Stan case studies are here.

Should we worry about rigged priors? A long discussion.

Today’s discussion starts with Stuart Buck, who came across a post by John Cook linking to my post, “Bayesian statistics: What’s it all about?”. Cook wrote about the benefit of prior distributions in making assumptions explicit. Buck shared Cook’s post with Jon Baron, who wrote: My concern is that if researchers are systematically too optimistic […]

“5 minutes? Really?”

Bob writes: Daniel says this issue is an easy 5-minute fix. In my ongoing role as wet blanket, let’s be realistic. It’s sort of like saying it’s an hour from here to Detroit because that’s how long the plane’s in the air. Nothing is a 5 minute fix (door to door) for Stan and […]