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

A couple more papers on genetic diversity as an explanation for why Africa and remote Andean countries are so poor while Europe and North America are so wealthy

Back in 2013, I wrote a post regarding a controversial claim that high genetic diversity, or low genetic diversity, is bad for the economy: Two economics professors, Quamrul Ashraf and Oded Galor, wrote a paper, “The Out of Africa Hypothesis, Human Genetic Diversity, and Comparative Economic Development,” that is scheduled to appear in the American […]

Mouse Among the Cats

Colleen Flaherty asks: Do you get asked to peer review a lot? I’m guessing you do… This new very short paper says it’s not a crisis, though, since only the people who publish the most are getting asked to review a lot… The authors pose two solutions: either we need to “democratize” the system of […]

“Identification of and correction for publication bias,” and another discussion of how forking paths is not the same thing as file drawer

Max Kasy and Isaiah Andrews sent along this paper, which begins: Some empirical results are more likely to be published than others. Such selective publication leads to biased estimates and distorted inference. This paper proposes two approaches for identifying the conditional probability of publication as a function of a study’s results, the first based on […]

Who spends how much, and on what?

Nathan Yau (link from Dan Hirschman) constructed the above excellent visualization of data from the Consumer Expenditure Survey. Lots of interesting things here. The one thing that surprises me is that people (or maybe it’s households) making more than $200,000 only spent an average of $160,000. I guess the difference is taxes, savings (but not […]

Let’s get hysterical

Following up on our discussion of hysteresis in the scientific community, Nick Brown points us to this article from 2014, “Excellence by Nonsense: The Competition for Publications in Modern Science,” by Mathias Binswanger, who writes: To ensure the efficient use of scarce funds, the government forces universities and professors, together with their academic staff, to […]

It should be ok to just publish the data.

Gur Huberman asked for my reaction to a recent manuscript, Are CEOs Different? Characteristics of Top Managers, by Steven Kaplan and Morten Sorensen. The paper begins: We use a dataset of over 2,600 executive assessments to study thirty individual characteristics of candidates for top executive positions – CEO, CFO, COO and others. We classify the […]

Some thoughts after reading “Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup”

I just read the above-titled John Carreyrou book, and it’s as excellent as everyone says it is. I suppose it’s the mark of any compelling story that it will bring to mind other things you’ve been thinking about, and in this case I saw many connections between the story of Theranos—a company that raised billions […]

“Seeding trials”: medical marketing disguised as science

Paul Alper points to this horrifying news article by Mary Chris Jaklevic, “how a medical device ‘seeding trial’ disguised marketing as science.” I’d never heard of “seeding trials” before. Here’s Jaklevic: As a new line of hip implants was about to be launched in 2000, a stunning email went out from the manufacturer’s marketing department. […]

How dumb do you have to be…

I (Phil) just read an article about Apple. Here’s the last sentence: “Apple has beaten earnings expectations in every quarter but one since March 2013.” [Note added a week later: on July 31 Apple reported earnings for the fiscal third quarter.  Earnings per share was $2.34 vs. the ‘consensus estimate’ of $2.18, according to Thomson Reuters.]  

Journals and refereeing: toward a new equilibrium

As we’ve discussed before (see also here), one of the difficulties of moving from our current system of review of scientific journal articles, to a new model of post-publication review, is that any major change seems likely to break the current “gift economy” system in which thousands of scientists put in millions of hours providing […]

Data-based ways of getting a job

Bart Turczynski writes: I read the following blog with a lot of excitement: Then I reread it and paid attention to the graphs and models (which don’t seem to be actual models, but rather, well, lines.) The story makes sense, but the science part is questionable (or at least unclear.) Perhaps you’d like to have […]

The persistence of bad reporting and the reluctance of people to criticize it

Mark Palko pointed to a bit of puff-piece journalism on the tech entrepreneur Elon Musk that was so extreme that it read as a possible parody, and I wrote, “it could just be as simple as that [author Neil] Strauss decided that a pure puff piece would give him access to write a future Musk […]

The Ponzi threshold and the Armstrong principle

Mark Palko writes of the Ponzi threshold: “sometimes overhyped companies that start out with viable business plans see their valuation become so inflated that, in order to meet and sustain investor expectations, they have to come up with new and increasingly fantastic longshot schemes, anything that sounds like it might possibly pay off with lottery […]

Chasing the noise in industrial A/B testing: what to do when all the low-hanging fruit have been picked?

Commenting on this post on the “80% power” lie, Roger Bohn writes: The low power problem bugged me so much in the semiconductor industry that I wrote 2 papers about around 1995. Variability estimates come naturally from routine manufacturing statistics, which in semicon were tracked carefully because they are economically important. The sample size is […]

Some experiments are just too noisy to tell us much of anything at all: Political science edition

Sointu Leikas pointed us to this published research article, “Exposure to inequality affects support for redistribution.” Leikas writes that “it seems to be a really apt example of “researcher degrees of freedom.’” Here’s the abstract of the paper: As the world’s population grows more urban, encounters between members of different socioeconomic groups occur with greater […]

“16 and Pregnant”

Ted Joyce writes: In December 2015 the AER published an article, “Media Influences on Social Outcomes: The Impact of MTV’s 16 and Pregnant on Teen Childbearing,” by Melissa Kearney and Phil Levine [KL]. The NBER working paper of this article appeared in January of 2014. It received huge media attention as the authors claimed the […]

Slow to update

This post is a placeholder to remind Josh Miller and me to write our paper on slow updating in decision analysis, with the paradigmatic examples being pundits being slow to update their low probabilities of Leicester City and Donald Trump in 2016. We have competing titles for this paper. Josh wants to call it, “The […]

Evaluating Sigmund Freud: Should we compare him to biologists or economists?

This post is about how we should think about Freud, not about how we should think about biology or economics. So. There’s this whole thing about Sigmund Freud being a bad scientist. Or maybe I should say a bad person and a terrible scientist. The “bad person” thing isn’t so relevant, but the “terrible scientist” […]

Should Berk Özler spend $2 million to test a “5 minute patience training”?

Berk Özler writes: Background: You receive a fictional proposal from a major foundation to review. The proposal wants to look at the impact of 5 minute “patience” training on all kinds of behaviors. This is a poor country, so there are no admin data. They make the following points: A. If successful, this is really […]

Early p-hacking investments substantially boost adult publication record

In a post with the title “Overstated findings, published in Science, on long-term health effects of a well-known early childhood program,” Perry Wilson writes: In this paper [“Early Childhood Investments Substantially Boost Adult Health,” by Frances Campbell, Gabriella Conti, James Heckman, Seong Hyeok Moon, Rodrigo Pinto, Elizabeth Pungello, and Yi Pan], published in Science in […]