Skip to content
Archive of posts filed under the Economics category.

“Thinking about the possibility of spurious correlation isn’t a matter of liking—it should be pretty much automatic.”

I agree with sociologist David Weakliem when he writes the above sentence. Here’s the full paragraph: Krugman says, “you can, if you like, try to argue that this relationship is spurious, maybe not causal.” Actually, I [Weakliem] liked his original figure, since I agree with Krugman on economic policy. But thinking about the possibility of […]

Time-release pedagogy??

Mark Palko points to this report and writes: Putting aside my concerns with the “additional years of learning” metric (and I have a lot of them), I have the feeling that there’s something strange here or i’m missing something obvious. That jump from 3-year impact to 4-year seems excessive. The press release links to a […]

Adiabatic as I wanna be: Or, how is a chess rating like classical economics?

Chess ratings are all about change. Did your rating go up, did it go down, have you reached 2000, who’s hot, who’s not, and so on. If nobody’s abilities were changing, chess ratings would be boring, they’d be nothing but a noisy measure, and watching your rating change would be as exciting as watching a […]

What do CERN, the ISS, and Stephen Fry have in Common?

You’ll have to read the New Yorker article on Richard M. Stallman and the The GNU Manifesto by Maria Bustillos to find out! And what’s up with Tim O’Reilly’s comments about the Old Testment vs. New Testament?   That’s an ad hominem attack of the highest order, guaranteed to get the Judeo-Christians even more riled […]

“Unbiasedness”: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. [My talk tomorrow in the Princeton economics department]

The talk is tomorrow, Tues 24 Feb, 2:40-4:00pm in 200 Fisher Hall: “Unbiasedness”: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. Andrew Gelman, Department of Statistics and Department of Political Science, Columbia University Minimizing bias is the traditional first goal of econometrics. In many cases, though, the […]

Oh, it’s so frustrating when you’re trying to help someone out, and then you realize you’re dealing with a snake.

This happens sometimes. Someone comes to you with a request, maybe it’s a student or a potential student or just someone who has a question relating to your field of expertise. You’re in a good mood so you decide to help out, or maybe you feel it’s your duty to be helpful, or, who knows, […]

Economics/sociology phrase book

Mark Palko points me to this amusing document from Jeffrey Smith and Kermit Daniel, translating sociology jargon into economics and vice-versa. Lots of good jokes there. Along these lines, I’ve always been bothered by economists’ phrase “willingness to pay” which, in practice, often means “ability to pay.” And, of course, “earnings” which means “how much […]

Cognitive vs. behavioral in psychology, economics, and political science

I’ve been coming across these issues from several different directions lately, and I wanted to get the basic idea down without killing myself in the writing of it. So consider this a sketchy first draft. The starting point is “behavioral economics,” also known as the “heuristics and biases” subfield of cognitive psychology. It’s associated with […]

What’s misleading about the phrase, “Statistical significance is not the same as practical significance”

You’ve heard it a million times, the idea is that if you have an estimate of .003 (on some reasonable scale in which 1 is a meaningful effect size) and a standard error of .001 then, yes, the estimate is statistically significant but it’s not practically significant. And, indeed, sometimes this sort of thing comes […]

Relaxed plagiarism standards as a way to keep the tuition dollars flowing from foreign students

Interesting comment thread at Basbøll’s blog regarding the difficult position of college writing instructors when confronted with blatant student plagiarism. Randall Westgren writes: I believe the easiest part of the patchwriting [plagiarism] phenomenon to understand is why writing instructors are leading the charge. Professor Howard is caught between a herd of high-value (i.e. full-tuition and […]

It’s Too Hard to Publish Criticisms and Obtain Data for Replication

Peter Swan writes: The problem you allude to in the above reference and in your other papers on ethics is a broad and serious one. I and my students have attempted to replicate a number of top articles in the major finance journals. Either they cannot be replicated due to missing data or what might […]

Message to Booleans: It’s an additive world, we just live in it

Boolean models (“it’s either A or (B and C)”) seem to be the natural way that we think, but additive models (“10 points if you have A, 3 points if you have B, 2 points if you have C”) seem to describe reality better—at least, the aspects of reality that I study in my research. […]

“Now the company appears to have screwed up badly, and they’ve done it in pretty much exactly the way you would expect a company to screw up when it doesn’t drill down into the data.”

Palko tells a good story: One of the accepted truths of the Netflix narrative is that CEO Reed Hastings is obsessed with data and everything the company does is data driven . . . Of course, all 21st century corporations are relatively data-driven. The fact that Netflix has large data sets on customer behavior does […]

Subtleties with measurement-error models for the evaluation of wacky claims

Paul Pudaite writes: In the latest Journal of the American Statistical Association (September 2014, Vol. 109 No. 507), Andrew Harvey and Alessandra Luati published a paper [preprint here] — “Filtering With Heavy Tails” — featuring the phenomenon you had asked about (“…(non-Gaussian) models for which, as y gets larger, E(x|y) can actually go back toward […]

How to read (in quantitative social science). And by implication, how to write.

It all started when I was reading Chris Blattman’s blog and noticed this: One of the most provocative and interesting field experiments I [Blattman] have seen in this year: Poor people often do not make investments, even when returns are high. One possible explanation is that they have low aspirations and form mental models of […]

4-year-old post on Arnold Zellner is oddly topical

I’m re-running this Arnold Zellner obituary because it is relevant to two recent blog discussions: 1. Differences between econometrics and statistics 2. Old-fashioned sexism (of the quaint, not the horrible, variety)

Question about data mining bias in finance

Finance professor Ravi Sastry writes: Let’s say we have N vectors of data, {y_1,y_2,…,y_N}. Each is used as the dependent variable in a series of otherwise identical OLS regressions, yielding t-statistics on some parameter of interest, theta: {t_1,t_2,…,t_N}. The maximum t-stat is denoted t_n*, and the corresponding data are y_n*. These are reported publicly, as […]

“Differences Between Econometrics and Statistics” (my talk this Monday at the University of Pennsylvania econ dept)

Differences Between Econometrics and Statistics:  that’s the title of the talk I’ll be giving at the econometrics workshop at noon on Monday. At 4pm 4:30pm in the same place, I’ll be speaking on Stan. And here are some things for people to read: For “Differences between econometrics and statistics”: Everyone’s trading bias for variance at […]

Social research is not the same as health research: Macartan Humphreys gives new guidelines for ethics in social science research

In reaction to the recent controversy about a research project that interfered with an election in Montana, political scientist Macartan Humphreys shares some excellent ideas on how to think about ethics in social science research: Social science researchers rely on principles developed by health researchers that do not always do the work asked of them […]

Ray Could Write

Now he is scattered among a hundred cities And wholly given over to unfamiliar affections, To find his happiness in another kind of wood And be punished under a foreign code of conscience. . . . You were silly like us; your gift survived it all: For chess makes nothing happen: it survives In the […]