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Archive of posts filed under the Economics category.

2 questions about HUD eligibility rules for federal housing programs

Daniel McCracken writes: At work, I came across a potentially serious flaw in how HUD uses statistics to determine eligibility for federal housing programs (and the amount of subsidy each household receives). It seemed like something you might be interested in or blog about, so I figured I’d pass it along. For background, here’s the […]


Sandro Ambuehl writes: As an avid reader of your blog, I thought you might like (to hate) the attached PNAS paper with the following findings: (i) sending two flyers about the importance of STEM fields to the parents of 81 kids improves ACT scores by 12 percentile points (intent-to-treat effect… a bit large, perhaps?) and […]

Facebook’s Prophet uses Stan

Sean Taylor, a research scientist at Facebook and Stan user, writes: I wanted to tell you about an open source forecasting package we just released called Prophet:  I thought the readers of your blog might be interested in both the package and the fact that we built it on top of Stan. Under the hood, […]

Is Rigor Contagious? (my talk next Monday 4:15pm at Columbia)

Is Rigor Contagious? Much of the theory and practice of statistics and econometrics is characterized by a toxic mixture of rigor and sloppiness. Methods are justified based on seemingly pure principles that can’t survive reality. Examples of these principles include random sampling, unbiased estimation, hypothesis testing, Bayesian inference, and causal identification. Examples of uncomfortable reality […]

Division of labor and a Pizzagate solution

[cat picture] I firmly believe that the general principles of social science can improve our understanding of the world. Today I want to talk about two principles—division of labor from economics, and roles from sociology—and their relevance to the Pizzagate scandal involving Brian Wansink, the Cornell University business school professor and self-described “world-renowned eating behavior […]

Clay pigeon

Sam Harper writes: Not that you are collecting these kinds of things, but I wanted to point to (yet) another benefit of the American Economic Association’s requirement of including replication datasets (unless there are confidentiality constraints) and code in order to publish in most of their journals—certainly for the top-tier ones like Am Econ Review: […]

Looking for rigor in all the wrong places (my talk this Thursday in the Columbia economics department)

[cat picture] Looking for Rigor in All the Wrong Places What do the following ideas and practices have in common: unbiased estimation, statistical significance, insistence on random sampling, and avoidance of prior information? All have been embraced as ways of enforcing rigor but all have backfired and led to sloppy analyses and erroneous inferences. We […]

“Luckily, medicine is a practice that ignores the requirements of science in favor of patient care.”

[cat picture] Javier Benitez writes: This is a paragraph from Kathryn Montgomery’s book, How Doctors Think: If medicine were practiced as if it were a science, even a probabilistic science, my daughter’s breast cancer might never have been diagnosed in time. At 28, she was quite literally off the charts, far too young, an unlikely […]

Cry of Alarm

[cat picture] Stan Liebowitz writes: Is it possible to respond to a paper that you are not allowed to discuss? The question above relates to some unusual behavior from a journal editor. As background, I [Liebowitz] have been engaged in a long running dispute regarding the analysis contained in an influential paper published in one […]

Identifying Neighborhood Effects

Dionissi Aliprantis writes: I have just published a paper (online here) on what we can learn about neighborhood effects from the results of the Moving to Opportunity housing mobility experiment. I wanted to suggest the paper (and/or the experiment more broadly) as a topic for your blog, as I am hoping the paper can start […]

The “What does not kill my statistical significance makes it stronger” fallacy

[cat picture] As anyone who’s designed a study and gathered data can tell you, getting statistical significance is difficult. Lots of our best ideas don’t pan out, and even if a hypothesis seems to be supported by the data, the magic “p less than .05” can be elusive. And we also know that noisy data […]

Research connects overpublication during national sporting events to science-journalism problems

[cat picture] Ivan Oransky pointed me to a delightful science-based press release, “One’s ability to make money develops before birth”: Researchers from the Higher School of Economics have shown how the level of perinatal testosterone, the sex hormone, impacts a person’s earnings in life. Prior research confirms that many skills and successes are linked to […]

When do protests affect policy?

Gur Huberman writes that he’s been wondering for many years about this question: One function of protests is to vent out the protesters’ emotions. When do protests affect policy? In dictatorships there are clear examples of protests affecting reality, e.g., in Eastern Europe in 1989. It’s harder to find such clear examples in democracies. And […]

Age period cohort brouhaha

Hi everybody! In August, I announced a break from blogging. And this is my first new post since then. (not counting various interpolated topical items on polling, elections, laughable surveys comparing North Carolina to North Korea, junk science on pizza prices, etc) I’m still trying to figure out how to do this; I have a […]

Quantifying uncertainty in identification assumptions—this is important!

Luis Guirola writes: I’m a poli sci student currently working on methods. I’ve seen you sometimes address questions in your blog, so here is one in case you wanted. I recently read some of Chuck Manski book “Identification for decision and prediction”. I take his main message to be “The only way to get identification […]

“Estimating trends in mortality for the bottom quartile, we found little evidence that survival probabilities declined dramatically.”

Last year there was much discussion here and elsewhere about a paper by Anne Case and Angus Deaton, who noticed that death rates for non-Hispanic white Americans aged 45-54 had been roughly flat since 1999, even while the death rates for this age category had been declining steadily in other countries and among nonwhite Americans. […]

Problems with randomized controlled trials (or any bounded statistical analysis) and thinking more seriously about story time

In 2010, I wrote: As a statistician, I was trained to think of randomized experimentation as representing the gold standard of knowledge in the social sciences, and, despite having seen occasional arguments to the contrary, I still hold that view, expressed pithily by Box, Hunter, and Hunter (1978) that “To find out what happens when […]

Time Inc. stoops to the level of the American Society of Human Genetics and PPNAS?

Do anyone out there know anyone at Time Inc? If so, I have a question for you. But first the story: Mark Palko linked to an item from Barry Petchesky pointing out this article at the online site of Sports Illustrated Magazine. Here’s Petchesky: Over at Sports Illustrated, you can read an article about Tom […]

Emails I never bothered to answer

So, this came in the email one day: Dear Professor Gelman, I would like to shortly introduce myself: I am editor in the ** Department at the publishing house ** (based in ** and **). As you may know, ** has taken over all journals of ** Press. We are currently restructuring some of the […]

Sethi on Schelling

Interesting appreciation from an economist.