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Archive of posts filed under the Economics category.

Can you account for this?

I’m speaking (remotely) to a roomful of accountants tomorrow. Exciting, huh? Actually, I don’t know if they’re accountants. They’re “accounting researchers,” whatever that means. . . . The title they gave to my talk is “A statistician’s thoughts on registered reports.” There’s no abstract (and, of course, no slides) but they sent me this list […]

“Everybody Lies” by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz

Seth Stephens-Davidowitz sent me his new book on learning from data. As is just about always the case for this sort of book, I’m a natural reviewer but I’m not really the intended audience. That’s why I gave Dan Ariely’s book to Juli Simon Thomas to review; I thought her perspective would be more relevant […]

Riddle me this

[cat picture] Paul Alper writes: From Susan Perry’s article based on Paul Hacker’s BMJ article: In 2015, the University of Colorado had to shut down its nonprofit Global Energy Balance Network after the organization was exposed as being essentially a “scientific” front for its funder, Coca-Cola. The University of Colorado School of Medicine returned […]

The Aristocrats!

[cat picture] I followed a link from Tyler Cowen to the book, “Inside Job: How Government Insiders Subvert the Public Interest,” by Mark Zupan (but not this Mark Zupan, I think). The link points to the book’s Amazon page, and here’s the very first blurb: ‘In the tradition of Parkinson’s Law, this fascinating and novel […]

“Data sleaze: Uber and beyond”

Interesting discussion from Kaiser Fung. I don’t have anything to add here; it’s just a good statistics topic. Scroll through Kaiser’s blog for more: Dispute over analysis of school quality and home prices shows social science is hard My pre-existing United boycott, and some musing on randomness and fairness etc.

Drug-funded profs push drugs

Someone who wishes to remain anonymous writes: I just read a long ProPublica article that I think your blog commenters might be interested in. It’s from February, but was linked to by the Mad Biologist today ( Here is a link to the article: In short, it’s about a group of professors (mainly economists) […]

Journals for insignificant results

Tom Daula writes: I know you’re not a fan of hypothesis testing, but the journals in this blog post are an interesting approach to the file drawer problem. I’ve never heard of them or their like. An alternative take (given academia standard practice) is “Journal for XYZ Discipline papers that p-hacking and forking paths could […]

Reputational incentives and post-publication review: two (partial) solutions to the misinformation problem

So. There are erroneous analyses published in scientific journals and in the news. Here I’m not talking not about outright propaganda, but about mistakes that happen to coincide with the preconceptions of their authors. We’ve seen lots of examples. Here are just a few: – Political scientist Larry Bartels is committed to a model of […]

Gilovich doubles down on hot hand denial

[cat picture] A correspondent pointed me to this Freaknomics radio interview with Thomas Gilovich, one of the authors of that famous “hot hand” paper from 1985, “Misperception of Chance Processes in Basketball.” Here’s the key bit from the Freakonomics interview: DUBNER: Right. The “hot-hand notion” or maybe the “hot-hand fallacy.” GILOVICH: Well, everyone who’s ever […]

Let’s accept the idea that treatment effects vary—not as something special but just as a matter of course

Tyler Cowen writes: Does knowing the price lower your enjoyment of goods and services? I [Cowen] don’t quite agree with this as stated, as the experience of enjoying a bargain can make it more pleasurable, or at least I have seen this for many people. Some in fact enjoy the bargain only, not the actual […]

Hey, we’re hiring a postdoc! To work on survey weighting! And imputation!

Here’s the ad: The Center on Poverty and Social Policy at the Columbia University School of Social Work and the Columbia Population Research Center are seeking a postdoctoral scholar with a PhD in economics, statistics, public policy, demography, social work, sociology, or a related discipline, to lead the development of survey weights and missing data imputations for the New York City […]

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 […]