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Sunday, June 4th, 2017

EconTalk: six part series on econometrics


Photo source: Wikimedia Commons, Meaghan O'Malley

Photo license: CC BY 2.0


In March 2016, Noah Smith had a blog post titled, Russ Roberts and the new empirical world. In the post, Smith mentions six episodes from Russ Roberts' podcast EconTalk about econometrics. I enjoyed listening to this series because it's informative to hear verbal explanations about econometric concepts.


This post is a collection of quotes from the six episodes.


Ed Leamer on the State of Econometrics (May 10, 2010)


"Economists don't observe feathers in a vacuum. They observe feathers when the wind is blowing, when humidity varies, eagle feathers, duck feathers. Tons of things that will affect the result."


"All we have, especially in macro is opinions and their either persuasive and well thought out or not."


Joshua Angrist on Econometrics and Causation (December 22, 2014)


"Regression is just a way to control for things, to try and hold characteristics of groups that you're trying to compare fixed."


"Each of these is an attempt to generate some kind of apples to apples comparison out of observational data."


Noah Smith on Whether Economics is a Science (December 28, 2015)


"The most important difference with natural experiments is you can't replicate them or repeat because each natural experiment happens only once."


"If you're going to believe the results of an experiment you always have to make a leap of faith that all the reasonable stuff has been controlled for, right? That the experimenter has good controls and that's an assumption and a leap of faith you have to make in every science experiment."


Adam Ozimek on the Power of Econometrics and Data (February 8, 2016)


"I think the research comes out and looks at slightly different angles and adjusts for slightly different mechanisms and we know so much more about the minimum wage than we did 10 years ago... If you look at the literature closely it doesn't look like a draw where two sides just lob evidence back and forth. It looks like progress to me."


"The stimulus act isn't something like the minimum wage. It's not a discrete policy where you turn the fiscal level up and it goes from 0 to a 1 to a 2 to a 3. The stimulus act was like a dozen different things and so to say that research hasn't told us whether the stimulus act was good or not or increased jobs, well I mean you could write a 100 page paper on just what was in it... but I do think that within the stimulus package there are things we can learn and have learned."


James Heckman on Facts, Evidence and the State of Econometrics (January 25, 2016)


"I think there's been a huge shift away from understanding behavior and moving towards statistical artifacts that are hard to interpret as responses to economic questions. So I think the credibility revolution has been somewhat overstated and not properly appreciated as having really turned focus away from serious economic analysis towards something I think is purely statistical."


"Calibrated models are models looking at some stylized facts that are putting together different pieces of data that are not mutually consistent. I mean literally you take estimates of this area, and estimates from that area and you assemble something that's like a Frankenstein..."


David Autor on Trade, China and U.S. Labor Markets (March 14, 2016)


"It's not that I think our estimates are cooked or even that sensitive. It's that they might miss other important margins. And I'm happy to concede that point. I mean, we've tried. It's not that we've sort of agreed to just sort of punt on that question. There's probably a lot of ways to look for those missing margins. We really haven't found them."