IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/
MyIDEAS: Login to save this article or follow this journal

Ziliak and McCloskey's Criticisms of Significance Tests: An Assessment

  • Thomas Mayer

Stephen Ziliak and D. N. McCloskey have sharply criticized the prevailing use of significance tests. Their work has, in turn, come under vigorous attack. The vehemence of the debate may induce readers to wrongly dismiss it as a “he said-she said” debate, or else to take sides in an unbending way that does not do justice to valid points raised by the other side. This paper aims at a more balanced reading. While Ziliak and McCloskey claim that a substantial majority of economists who use significance tests confuse statistical with substantive significance, or commit the logical error of the transposed conditional, I argue that such errors are much less frequent than they claim, though still much too pervasive. They also argue that since significance tests focus on the existence of an effect rather than on its size, the tests do not answer scientific questions. I respond with counter-examples. Ziliak and McCloskey also complain that significance tests ignore loss functions. I argue that loss functions should be introduced only at a later stage. Ziliak and McCloskey are correct, however, that confidence intervals deserve much more emphasis. The most valuable message of their work is that significance tests should be treated less mechanically.

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: http://econjwatch.org/file_download/588/MayerSept2012.pdf
Download Restriction: no

File URL: http://econjwatch.org/824
Download Restriction: no

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

Volume (Year): 9 (2012)
Issue (Month): 3 (September)
Pages: 256-297

as
in new window

Handle: RePEc:ejw:journl:v:9:y:2012:i:3:p:256-297
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: http://econjwatch.org/

More information through EDIRC

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Deirdre McCloskey & Stephen Ziliak, 2008. "Signifying nothing: reply to Hoover and Siegler," Journal of Economic Methodology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 15(1), pages 39-55.
  2. Glenn Ellison & Edward L. Glaeser & William Kerr, 2007. "What Causes Industry Agglomeration? Evidence from Coagglomeration Patterns," NBER Working Papers 13068, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. David Colander, 2001. "The Lost Art of Economics," Books, Edward Elgar, number 2415, March.
  4. Josh Lerner & Ulrike Malmendier, 2005. "Contractibility and the Design of Research Agreements," NBER Working Papers 11292, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Ayres, Ian & Siegelman, Peter, 1995. "Race and Gender Discrimination in Bargaining for a New Car," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(3), pages 304-21, June.
  6. Milton Friedman, 1957. "A Theory of the Consumption Function," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number frie57-1.
  7. George J. Borjas, 1994. "Ethnicity, Neighborhoods, and Human Capital Externalities," NBER Working Papers 4912, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Sauer, Raymond D & Leffler, Keith B, 1990. "Did the Federal Trade Commission's Advertising Substantiation Program Promote More Credible Advertising?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(1), pages 191-203, March.
  9. Atif Mian & Amir Sufi & Francesco Trebbi, 2010. "The Political Economy of the US Mortgage Default Crisis," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(5), pages 1967-98, December.
  10. Amitabh Chandra & Jonathan Gruber & Robin McKnight, 2010. "Patient Cost-Sharing and Hospitalization Offsets in the Elderly," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(1), pages 193-213, March.
  11. Frederic S. Mishkin, 1981. "Does Anticipated Aggregate Demand Policy Matter? Further Econometric results," NBER Working Papers 0789, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Darby, Michael R, 1982. "The Price of Oil and World Inflation and Recession," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(4), pages 738-51, September.
  13. Hendricks, Kenneth & Porter, Robert H, 1996. "The Timing and Incidence of Exploratory Drilling on Offshore Wildcat Tracts," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(3), pages 388-407, June.
  14. Christina D. Romer & David H. Romer, 2010. "The Macroeconomic Effects of Tax Changes: Estimates Based on a New Measure of Fiscal Shocks," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(3), pages 763-801, June.
  15. LaLonde, Robert J, 1986. "Evaluating the Econometric Evaluations of Training Programs with Experimental Data," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(4), pages 604-20, September.
  16. Kevin Hoover & Mark Siegler, 2008. "Sound and fury: McCloskey and significance testing in economics," Journal of Economic Methodology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 15(1), pages 1-37.
  17. Keuzenkamp, Hugo A. & Magnus, Jan R., 1995. "On tests and significance in econometrics," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 67(1), pages 5-24, May.
  18. Wolff, Edward N, 1991. "Capital Formation and Productivity Convergence over the Long Term," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(3), pages 565-79, June.
  19. Erhan Artu� & Shubham Chaudhuri & John McLaren, 2010. "Trade Shocks and Labor Adjustment: A Structural Empirical Approach," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(3), pages 1008-45, June.
  20. Stephen A. Woodbury & Robert G. Spiegelman, . "Bonuses to Workers and Employers to Reduce unemployment: Randomized Trials in Illinois," Upjohn Working Papers and Journal Articles sawrgs1987, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
  21. Meredith Fowlie, 2010. "Emissions Trading, Electricity Restructuring, and Investment in Pollution Abatement," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(3), pages 837-69, June.
  22. Perotti, Roberto & Alesina, Alberto, 1997. "The Welfare State and Competitiveness," Scholarly Articles 4553027, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  23. H. D. Vinod & B. D. McCullough, 1999. "The Numerical Reliability of Econometric Software," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 37(2), pages 633-665, June.
  24. Acs, Zoltan J & Audretsch, David B, 1988. "Innovation in Large and Small Firms: An Empirical Analysis," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(4), pages 678-90, September.
  25. Keuzenkamp, H.A. & Magnus, J.R., 1995. "On tests and significance in econometrics," Other publications TiSEM 1808e2e0-3805-4999-b9a1-5, Tilburg University, School of Economics and Management.
  26. Angrist, Joshua D & Evans, William N, 1998. "Children and Their Parents' Labor Supply: Evidence from Exogenous Variation in Family Size," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(3), pages 450-77, June.
  27. Abel Brodeur & Mathias Lé & Marc Sangnier & Yanos Zylberberg, 2012. "Star wars: The empirics strike back," PSE Working Papers halshs-00710122, HAL.
  28. Pontiff, Jeffrey, 1997. "Excess Volatility and Closed-End Funds," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(1), pages 155-69, March.
  29. Froyen, Richard T & Waud, Roger N, 1980. "Further International Evidence of Output-Inflation Tradeoffs," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 70(3), pages 409-21, June.
  30. Kevin Hoover & Mark Siegler, 2008. "The rhetoric of 'Signifying nothing': a rejoinder to Ziliak and McCloskey," Journal of Economic Methodology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 15(1), pages 57-68.
  31. Carol Corrado & Charles Hulten & Daniel Sichel, 2006. "Intangible capital and economic growth," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2006-24, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  32. Bloom, David E & Cavanagh, Christopher L, 1986. "An Analysis of the Selection of Arbitrators," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(3), pages 408-22, June.
  33. Milton Friedman, 1957. "Introduction to "A Theory of the Consumption Function"," NBER Chapters, in: A Theory of the Consumption Function, pages 1-6 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  34. Trejo, Stephen J, 1991. "The Effects of Overtime Pay Regulation on Worker Compensation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(4), pages 719-40, September.
  35. Gigerenzer, Gerd, 2004. "Mindless statistics," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 33(5), pages 587-606, November.
  36. repec:hal:wpaper:halshs-00710122 is not listed on IDEAS
  37. Stekler, H.O., 2007. "Significance tests harm progress in forecasting: Comment," International Journal of Forecasting, Elsevier, vol. 23(2), pages 329-330.
  38. Mayer, Thomas, 1980. "Economics as a Hard Science: Realistic Goal or Wishful Thinking?," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 18(2), pages 165-78, April.
  39. Joskow, Paul L, 1987. "Contract Duration and Relationship-Specific Investments: Empirical Evidence from Coal Markets," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(1), pages 168-85, March.
  40. Feenstra, Robert C, 1994. "New Product Varieties and the Measurement of International Prices," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(1), pages 157-77, March.
  41. Martha J. Bailey, 2009. ""Momma's Got the Pill": How Anthony Comstock and Griswold v. Connecticut Shaped U.S. Childbearing," NBER Working Papers 14675, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  42. O'Brien, Anthony Patrick, 2004. "Why is the standard error of regression so low using historical data?: Comments on "size matters"," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 33(5), pages 565-570, November.
  43. Alberto Alesina & Roberto Perotti, 1994. "The Welfare State and Competitiveness," NBER Working Papers 4810, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  44. Mendelsohn, Robert & Nordhaus, William D & Shaw, Daigee, 1994. "The Impact of Global Warming on Agriculture: A Ricardian Analysis," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(4), pages 753-71, September.
  45. Sachs, Jeffrey, 1980. "The Changing Cyclical Behavior of Wages and Prices: 1890-1976," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 70(1), pages 78-90, March.
  46. Ann Harrison & Jason Scorse, 2010. "Multinationals and Anti-sweatshop Activism," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(1), pages 247-73, March.
  47. Johnson, William R & Skinner, Jonathan, 1986. "Labor Supply and Marital Separation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(3), pages 455-69, June.
  48. Berg, Nathan, 2004. "No-decision classification: an alternative to testing for statistical significance," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 33(5), pages 631-650, November.
  49. Zellner, Arnold, 2004. "To test or not to test and if so, how?: Comments on "size matters"," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 33(5), pages 581-586, November.
  50. Garber, Peter M, 1986. "Nominal Contracts in a Bimetallic Standard," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(5), pages 1012-30, December.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

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:9:y:2012:i:3:p:256-297. 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.