Category: Social Sciences

“If You Can’t Control What’s Important, You Make Important What You Can Control”

More surprisingly, Posner spends significant firepower assailing
“The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation.” This compendium (The Chicago Manual of Style for lawyers) might seem an unworthy target. Yet he is excoriating not just the Bluebook, but also the substitution of style over substance it represents. When created in 1926, supposedly by the great appellate judge Henry Friendly, the manual was 26 pages. A recent edition spans 511 pages. Posner appears to believe that following the Bluebook is about as bad as rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic — and by reverse order of manufacture, no less. He casts the Bluebook as a neurotic reaction to external complexity; if you cannot control what is important, you make important what you can control.

From a New York Times review of Richard Posner’s new book, Reflections on Judging. I emphasized the last part because it was oddly reminiscent of a disturbing trend in my own discipline.

A Nifty Fix for When Your Treatment Variable Is Measured with Error (Technical)

One of the advantages of having really smart colleagues — the kind who exhibit genuine intellectual curiosity, and who are truly interested in doing things well — is that you get to learn a lot from them.

I was recently having a conversation with my colleague and next-door office neighbor Joe Ritter in which we were discussing the possibility that the (binary) treatment variable in a paper I am working on might suffer from some misclassification. That is, my variable D = 1 if an individual has received the treatment and D = 0 otherwise, but it is possible that some people for whom D = 1 actually report D = 0, and that some people for whom D = 0 actually report D = 1.

When the possibility that my treatment variable might suffer from misclassification (or measurement error) arose, Joe recalled that he’d read a paper by Christopher R. Bollinger about this a while back. A few hours later, he sent me an email to which he’d attached the paper. Here is the abstract: Continue reading

Job Market Advice II: Interviewing at the Annual Meetings

It’s that time of the year again, when graduate students who are about to enter their final year in economics and related disciplines are getting ready to go on the job market.

Going on the job market is a harrowing experience for most people, however, so I thought I should help job-market candidates by sharing my advice.

This post is the second in a series of three. Today, I’d like to discuss what it’s like to interview at the annual meetings, and how you should prepare for it. The next installment will be posted in late fall and will cover on-campus interviews. Continue reading

On “Rationality,” Other Misinterpreted Words, and Cultural Exceptions

A long-time friend and colleague writes (in French, so my own loose translation follows):

Hey,

I was thinking about your post on rationality, a concept whose [economic] definition differs from its popular definition.

Other examples: “structural,” “public good,” or “efficiency.” In the limit, “profit” and “rent.”

Is it the layperson’s job to learn accurate definitions, or the economist’s job to be more precise about their vocabulary?

I think it’s our job to define the terms we use when we engage in public debates, for two reasons. First, because I believe the onus is always on the writer to be understood by his readers. That belief of mine probably stems from studying philosophy in college in a French-speaking university, and from the allergic reaction I got from being exposed to some of the most willingly obfuscating writing ever published (see Derrida, Jacques; or don’t.) Continue reading

Love It or Logit, or: Man, People *Really* Care About Binary Dependent Variables

Last Monday’s post, in which I ranted a bit about the opposition to estimating linear probability models (LPM) instead of probits and logits, turned out to be very popular. In fact, that post is now in my top three most popular posts ever.

(Credit: xkcd.)
(Credit: xkcd.)

Last Monday morning, when my wife left for work, I told her I was expecting a meager number of page views that day given my choice of post topic. I was wrong: people really care about binary dependent variables. Continue reading