More on the Cookbook Approach to Econometrics

Fellow agricultural and applied economist Matt Bogard had a very nice post last weekend discussing my own post last month on the cookbook approach to econometrics:

It is the gap between theory and practice [of econometrics] that has given me a ton of grief in the last few years. After spending hours and hours in graduate school working through tons of theorems and proofs to basically restate everything I learned as an undergraduate in a more rigorous tone, I found that when it came to actually doing econometrics I wasn’t much the better, or sometimes wondered if maybe I even regressed. [Note: Ha! – MFB.] At every corner was a different challenge that seemed at odds with everything I learned in grad school. Doing econometrics felt like running in water. As Peter Kennedy states in the applied econometrics chapter of his popular A Guide to Econometrics, “econometrics is much easier without data.” As Angrist and Pischke state: “if applied econometrics were easy theorists would do it.”

“The Determinants of…”: How Not to Do Social Science

"Bro, this elixir will guarantee that my predicted values are not outside of [0,1]."
“Bro, this elixir will totally guarantee that my predicted values are in the [0,1] interval.”
A nice post by Frances Woolley titled “Economists Aren’t in the Prediction Business–and That’s a Good Thing” over at Worthwhile Canadian Initiative reminded me of how much I dislike “determinants” papers, and so I thought I should write a short post about the topic.

I frequently run into “determinants” papers. Typically, a student in the second-year qualifying research paper seminar I teach in our PhD program will submit a paper proposal that is a “determinants” paper. More frequently, however, I see “determinants” papers when new manuscripts are assigned to me for handling at Food Policy.

“What’s a ‘determinants’ paper?,” you ask? A “determinants” paper is a paper in which the authors do not specifically try to answer a question of the form “Does X cause Y?” Continue reading

Seminar on Social Media for Economists this Friday at Cornell

Warren Hall, home of the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management.
Warren Hall, home of the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management.

I am in Ithaca this week to run some lab experiments (more on those in early 2015) with my PhD student Yu Na Lee and my friend and coauthor David Just. It will be nice to return to my old stomping grounds, get to see old friends, and get a bunch of work done on a few separate projects.

Because I am going to be in town, the Dyson School’s Graduate Student Association has asked me to present on the topic of social media for economists. If you are interested, do come by. The seminar will be on Friday, from 11:45 to 1, in Warren 101.