Arnold Kling  

Defending Freakonomics

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Lawrence Katz on Inequality... Here is Wisdom...

Alex Tabarrok defends Steven Levitt from an attack by Noam Schieber.


I think Scheiber is off in a few ways. First, he conflates methods and questions. It's true that clean identification is often found with quirky experiments but a quirky experiment does not necessarily imply a quirky question. Hoxby's work on education, mentioned above, is asking a big question about the effect of competition on schools.

I thought that a lot of the questions asked in Freakonomics were not terribly interesting to me as an economist. But when applied to interesting questions, the technique of looking for quirky events that provided natural experiments is a good one.


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CATEGORIES: Economic Methods



COMMENTS (2 to date)
PrestoPundit writes:

Economists are doing sociology, psychology, etc. -- and they're calling it "economics". Too bad we can't blow up the departmental boxes and let folks do "research" on whatever they find of interest. But we can't, so given what is being cranked out by the professional sociologists, perhaps this is a second best solution.

Steve Sailer writes:

The problem is that many economists really don't know much about a lot of non-economic areas. Thus, Levitt's most famous theory -- that legalizing abortion lowered crime -- has taken a terrible beating over the years from those who have looked carefully at the data because Levitt was so ignorant of basic real world events when he made up his theory in 1998 that he hadn't noticed the teen crack crime wave of 1988-1995 among the first cohort born after the legalization of abortion.

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