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But Economics Is Not an Experimental Science

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  • Christopher A. Sims

Abstract

The fact is, economics is not an experimental science and cannot be. "Natural" experiments and "quasi" experiments are not in fact experiments. They are rhetorical devices that are often invoked to avoid having to confront real econometric difficulties. Natural, quasi-, and computational experiments, as well as regression discontinuity design, can all, when well applied, be useful, but none are panaceas. The essay by Angrist and Pischke, in its enthusiasm for some real accomplishments in certain subfields of economics, makes overbroad claims for its favored methodologies. What the essay says about macroeconomics is mainly nonsense. Consequently, I devote the central part of my comment to describing the main developments that have helped take some of the con out of macroeconomics. Recent enthusiasm for single-equation, linear, instrumental variables approaches in applied microeconomics has led many in these fields to avoid undertaking research that would require them to think formally and carefully about the central issues of nonexperimental inference -- what I see and many see as the core of econometrics. Providing empirically grounded policy advice necessarily involves confronting these difficult central issues.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal Journal of Economic Perspectives.

Volume (Year): 24 (2010)
Issue (Month): 2 (Spring)
Pages: 59-68

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Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:24:y:2010:i:2:p:59-68

Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.24.2.59
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  1. Leeper, Eric M., 1997. "Narrative and VAR approaches to monetary policy: Common identification problems," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(3), pages 641-657, December.
  2. Milton Friedman & Anna J. Schwartz, 1963. "A Monetary History of the United States, 1867-1960," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number frie63-1, octubre-d.
  3. Finn E. Kydland & Edward C. Prescott, 1996. "The Computational Experiment: An Econometric Tool," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 10(1), pages 69-85, Winter.
  4. Frank Smets & Raf Wouters, 2002. "An estimated dynamic stochastic general equilibrium model of the euro area," Working Paper Research 35, National Bank of Belgium.
  5. Sims, Christopher A, 1980. "Comparison of Interwar and Postwar Business Cycles: Monetarism Reconsidered," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 70(2), pages 250-57, May.
  6. Chamberlain, Gary, 1987. "Asymptotic efficiency in estimation with conditional moment restrictions," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 34(3), pages 305-334, March.
  7. Mehra, Yash P, 1978. "Is Money Exogenous in Money-Demand Equations," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(2), pages 211-28, April.
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  1. Notes on books for Macroeconometrics
    by Gray in Pseudo-true News on 2013-04-08 15:49:43
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Cited by:
  1. Hans Haller & Hans Gersbach & Hideo Konishi, 2013. "Household Formation and Markets," Working Papers e07-37, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Department of Economics.
  2. James J. Heckman, 2010. "Building Bridges Between Structural and Program Evaluation Approaches to Evaluating Policy," NBER Working Papers 16110, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Dube, Arindrajit & Lester, T. William & Reich, Michael, 2011. "Do Frictions Matter in the Labor Market? Accessions, Separations, and Minimum Wage Effects," Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, Working Paper Series qt4t3342nd, Institute of Industrial Relations, UC Berkeley.
  4. Mehmood, Sultan, 2013. "Terrorism and the macroeconomy: Evidence from Pakistan," MPRA Paper 44546, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  5. David I. Stern, 2011. "From Correlation to Granger Causality," Crawford School Research Papers 1113, Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University.
  6. Sultan Mehmood, 2013. "Access to External Finance and Innovation: A Macroeconomic Perspective," CPB Discussion Paper 218, CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis.
  7. Facchini, Francois, 2014. "The determinants of public spending: a survey in a methodological perspective," MPRA Paper 53006, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  8. Mohanty, Madhu Sudan, 2012. "Effects of positive attitude and optimism on wage and employment: A double selection approach," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 41(3), pages 304-316.
  9. Christopher T. Conlon & Julie Holland Mortimer, 2013. "An Experimental Approach to Merger Evaluation," NBER Working Papers 19703, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Tomáš Otáhal, 2012. "Economic History: What Are the Contributions of Historical Example to Understanding of Economic Phenomena?," Politická ekonomie, University of Economics, Prague, vol. 2012(5), pages 679-693.
  11. Bernd Hayo & Matthias Uhl, 2014. "Taxation and Consumption: Evidence from a Representative Survey of the German Population," MAGKS Papers on Economics 201420, Philipps-Universität Marburg, Faculty of Business Administration and Economics, Department of Economics (Volkswirtschaftliche Abteilung).
  12. Angus Deaton, 2010. "Instruments, Randomization, and Learning about Development," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 48(2), pages 424-55, June.
  13. Lahura, Erick, 2012. "Midiendo los efectos de la política monetaria a través de las expectativas de mercado," Revista Estudios Económicos, Banco Central de Reserva del Perú, issue 23, pages 39-52.
  14. Richard A. Ashley & Guo Li, 2013. "Re-Examining the Impact of Housing Wealth and Stock Wealth on Household Spending: Does Persistence in Wealth Changes Matter?," Working Papers e07-39, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Department of Economics.
  15. Niu, Yongzhi, 2010. "Taxpayers' Response to Warnings of a Possible Tax Audit: Do They Change Their Compliance Behavior?," MPRA Paper 25551, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  16. Claude Hillinger & Bernd Süssmuth & Marco Sunder, 2012. "The Quantity Theory of Money and Friedmanian Monetary Policy: An Empirical Investigation," CESifo Working Paper Series 3754, CESifo Group Munich.

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