Posted by: clholoman | April 18, 2013

Quick update

The first item from Tuesday has made its way into the (pardon the expression) mainstream media. Too many links to mess with; you can just search for “Rogoff” at your favorite news source. Very interesting range of opinion on the gravity of the error, usually reflecting partisan leanings (IMO.)

But I did want to point to one piece, because it touches on one of the sub- (or sub-sub-) themes of this blog: the role of theory.  Here is the Slate article that in turn can lead you to the source work by Arindrajit Dube appearing to demonstrate that, as I alluded to on Tuesday, Reinhardt and Rogoff found an interesting correlation, but got the causality backward. This is one of the most basic strengths of the theory-driven deductive approach–it helps you avoid this mistake (but doesn’t shield you from it!)

One of my concerns with the increasing use of “big data” which I noted in a January 7 post (still on the page below, I think–man, have I been slack on this blog!) is that it is easier to get interesting, provocative findings inductively, ungrounded in theory. Will we see more of these types of mistakes? (BTW, Catherine Rampell at the NYT blogs on some other recent data problems in high-profile economics papers, although they are not as interesting to me.)

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