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The Law Of Genius And Home Runs Refuted


"In a lively, provocative article, DeVany claims inter alia that the size distribution of home runs follows a continuous "power law" distribution which is nested in a larger class of "stable" statistical distributions characterized by an infinite variance. He uses this putative fact about the size distribution of home runs to argue that concern about the use of steroids to enhance home run ability is necessarily misplaced. In this article, we show that the initial claim is false and argue that the subsequent claim about the potential importance of steroid use does not follow from the first. We also show that the method used to establish that the size distribution of home runs is characterized by an infinite variance is unreliable and will find evidence "consistent" with infinite variance in all but the most trivial of data sets generated by processes with finite variance. Despite a large and growing literature that spans several fields and uses methods and arguments similar to DeVany's, we argue that mere inspection of the unconditional distribution of some human phenomenon is unlikely to yield much insight." ("JEL" C16, L83) Copyright (c) 2008 Western Economic Association International.

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Article provided by Western Economic Association International in its journal Economic Inquiry.

Volume (Year): 48 (2010)
Issue (Month): 1 (01)
Pages: 51-64

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Handle: RePEc:bla:ecinqu:v:48:y:2010:i:1:p:51-64
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  1. Xavier Gabaix, 1999. "Zipf's Law for Cities: An Explanation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(3), pages 739-767.
  2. John DiNardo, 2007. "Interesting Questions in Freakonomics," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 45(4), pages 973-1000, December.
  3. Brock, W A, 1999. "Scaling in Economics: A Reader's Guide," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 8(3), pages 409-46, September.
  4. Andrew R. Solow & Christopher J. Costello & Michael B. Ward, 2003. "Testing the power law model for discrete size data," Monash Economics Working Papers archive-16, Monash University, Department of Economics.
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