IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this article or follow this journal

Size Matters: The Standard Error of Regressions in the American Economic Review

  • Stephen T. Ziliak
  • Deirdre N. McCloskey
Registered author(s):

    Significance testing as used has no theoretical justification. Our article in the Journal of Economic Literature (1996) showed that of the 182 full-length papers published in the 1980s in the American Economic Review 70% did not distinguish economic from statistical significance. Since 1996 many colleagues have told us that practice has improved. We interpret their response as an empirical claim, a judgment about a fact. Our colleagues, unhappily, are mistaken: significance testing is getting worse. We find here that in the next decade, the 1990s, of the 137 papers using a test of statistical significance in the AER fully 82% mistook a merely statistically significant finding for an economically significant finding. A super majority (81%) believed that looking at the sign of a coefficient sufficed for science, ignoring size. The mistake is causing economic damage: losses of jobs and justice, and indeed of human lives (especially in, to mention another field enchanted with statistical significance as against substantive significance, medical science). The confusion between fit and importance is causing false hypotheses to be accepted and true hypotheses to be rejected. We propose a publication standard for the future: “Tell me the oomph of your coefficient; and do not confuse it with merely statistical significance.â€

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Article provided by Econ Journal Watch in its journal Econ Journal Watch.

    Volume (Year): 1 (2004)
    Issue (Month): 2 (August)
    Pages: 331-358

    in new window

    Handle: RePEc:ejw:journl:v:1:y:2004:i:2:p:331-358
    Contact details of provider: Postal: Enterprise Hall, Room 354, 4400 University Drive, 3G4 Fairfax, VA 22030
    Phone: (703) 993-1151
    Fax: 703.993.1133
    Web page:

    More information through EDIRC

    No references listed on IDEAS
    You can help add them by filling out this form.

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ejw:journl:v:1:y:2004:i:2:p:331-358. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Jason Briggeman)

    The email address of this maintainer does not seem to be valid anymore. Please ask Jason Briggeman to update the entry or send us the correct address

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.