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“True Believers” or Numerical Terrorism at the Nuclear Power Plant


  • Krämer Walter

    () (Institut für Wirtschafts- und Sozialstatistik, Fakultät Statistik, Technische Universität Dortmund, 44221 Dortmund, Germany)

  • Arminger Gerhard

    () (Arminger, Lehrstuhl für Wirtschaftstatistik, Fachbereich B Wirtschaftswissenschaft, Schumpeter School of Business and Economics, Bergische Universität Wuppertal, Gaußstrasse 20, 42097 Wuppertal, Germany)


For decades, there has been a heated debate about whether or not nuclear power plants contribute to childhood cancer in their respective neighbourhoods, with statisticians testifying on both sides. The present paper points to some flaws in the pro-arguments, taking a recent study prepared for the political party “Bündnis 90 /Grüne” as a specimen. Typical mistakes include an understatement of the size of tests of significance, disregard of important covariates and extreme reliance on very few selected data points.

Suggested Citation

  • Krämer Walter & Arminger Gerhard, 2011. "“True Believers” or Numerical Terrorism at the Nuclear Power Plant," Journal of Economics and Statistics (Jahrbuecher fuer Nationaloekonomie und Statistik), De Gruyter, vol. 231(5-6), pages 608-620, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:jns:jbstat:v:231:y:2011:i:5-6:p:608-620

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. McCloskey, Donald N, 1983. "The Rhetoric of Economics," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 21(2), pages 481-517, June.
    2. Denton, Frank T, 1985. "Data Mining as an Industry," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 67(1), pages 124-127, February.
    3. Lovell, Michael C, 1983. "Data Mining," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 65(1), pages 1-12, February.
    4. Michael Fertig & Marcus Tamm, 2010. "Always Poor or Never Poor and Nothing in Between? Duration of Child Poverty in Germany," German Economic Review, Verein für Socialpolitik, vol. 11, pages 150-168, May.
    5. repec:aph:ajpbhl:1983:73:1:83-91_2 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Gigerenzer, Gerd & Krämer, Walter, 2004. "How to confuse with statistics or: the use and misuse of conditional probabilities," Technical Reports 2004,35, Technische Universität Dortmund, Sonderforschungsbereich 475: Komplexitätsreduktion in multivariaten Datenstrukturen.
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    Cited by:

    1. Walter Krämer, 2011. "The Cult of Statistical Significance – What Economists Should and Should Not Do to Make their Data Talk," Schmollers Jahrbuch : Journal of Applied Social Science Studies / Zeitschrift für Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaften, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin, vol. 131(3), pages 455-468.

    More about this item


    Significance; data mining; overrejection;

    JEL classification:

    • C10 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods and Methodology: General - - - General
    • C12 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods and Methodology: General - - - Hypothesis Testing: General
    • C52 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric Modeling - - - Model Evaluation, Validation, and Selection


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