Empirical research and quantitative methods

1 August, 2012 at 09:31 | Posted in Statistics & Econometrics, Theory of Science & Methodology | 5 Comments

David A. Freedman‘s Statistical Models and Causal Inference (2010) and Statistical Models: Theory and Practice (2009) are marvellous books. They should be mandatory reading for every serious social scientist – including economists and econometricians – who don’t want to succumb to ad hoc assumptions and unsupported statistical conclusions!

In the social and behavioral sciences, far-reaching claims are often made for the superiority of advanced quantitative methods – by those who manage to ignore the far-reaching assumptions behind the models.

Some kinds of problems may yield to sophisticated statistical technique; others will not. The goal of empirical research is – or should be – to increase our understanding of the phenomena, rather than displaying our mastery of technique.



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  1. I’ll read then but too bad they are available for the iPad.

  2. A limerick

    I once met an econometrician
    He coifed models like a beautician
    He told me he was looking for truth
    I said look in the directory of a telephone booth
    HeI retorted a bit perplexed, but I’m a statistician.

    • Poetic inspiration – a gift of God.

  3. Louçã, F. (1999). “The econometric challenge to Keynes: Arguments and contradictions in the early debates about a late issue”. The European Journal of the History of Economic Thought 6 (3): 404.

    The paper investigates the discussions between Keynesians and ‘reconcilers’ about the interpretation of the ‘General Theory’, and the effect of the transformation of economics during the thirties as the outcome of that discussion. It highlights the contribution of some of the first econometriians, who argued for a new view of economics as an exact science based on mechanical models and mathematically defined theories, while supporting planning rather than the indirect steering devices suggested by Keynes.

    The inroduction of this type of mathematical models in the framework of Keynesian macro–policies is related to two major events: the Oxford meeting of the Econometric Society in which the IS-LM model emerged, and the Cambridge meeting dedicated to the discussion of Tinbergen’s work on business cycles.

    • Thanks for the link. I’ll certainly have a look at the article!

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