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Signifying nothing: reply to Hoover and Siegler

Author

Listed:
  • Deirdre McCloskey
  • Stephen Ziliak

Abstract

After William Gosset (1876-1937), the 'Student' of Student's t, the best statisticians have distinguished economic (or agronomic or psychological or medical) significance from merely statistical 'significance' at conventional levels. A singular exception among the best was Ronald A. Fisher, who argued in the 1920s that statistical significance at the 0.05 level is a necessary and sufficient condition for establishing a scientific result. After Fisher many economists and some others - but rarely physicists, chemists, and geologists, who seldom use Fisher-significance - have mixed up the two kinds of significance. We have been writing on the matter for some decades, with other critics in medicine, sociology, psychology, and the like. Hoover and Siegler, despite a disdainful rhetoric, agree with the logic of our case. Fisherian 'significance,' they agree, is neither necessary nor sufficient for scientific significance. But they claim that economists already know this and that Fisherian tests can still be used for specification searches. Neither claim seems to be true. Our massive evidence that economists get it wrong appears to hold up. And if rhetorical standards are needed to decide the importance of a coefficient in the scientific conversation, so are they needed when searching for an equation to fit. Fisherian 'significance' signifies nearly nothing, and empirical economics as actually practiced is in crisis.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:jecmet:v:15:y:2008:i:1:p:39-55
    DOI: 10.1080/13501780801913413
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Thomas Mayer, 2009. "Honesty and Integrity in Economics," Working Papers 160, University of California, Davis, Department of Economics.
    2. John S.L. McCombie & Ioana Negru, 2014. "On economic paradigms, rhetoric and the micro-foundations of macroeconomics," European Journal of Economics and Economic Policies: Intervention, Edward Elgar Publishing, vol. 11(1), pages 53-66, April.
    3. Katzenstein, Peter J., 2022. "Of Gardens, Forests, and Parks," EconStor Open Access Book Chapters, in: Uncertainty and Its Discontents: Worldviews in World Politics, pages 279-352, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics.
    4. Tom Engsted, 2009. "Statistical vs. Economic Significance in Economics and Econometrics: Further comments on McCloskey & Ziliak," CREATES Research Papers 2009-17, Department of Economics and Business Economics, Aarhus University.
    5. Thomas Mayer, 2012. "Ziliak and McClosky?s Criticisms of Significance Tests: A Damage Assessment," Working Papers 61, University of California, Davis, Department of Economics.
    6. Peter J. Veazie, 2015. "Understanding Statistical Testing," SAGE Open, , vol. 5(1), pages 21582440145, January.
    7. Thomas Mayer, 2012. "Ziliak and McClosky?s Criticisms of Significance Tests: A Damage Assessment," Working Papers 126, University of California, Davis, Department of Economics.
    8. Stephen T. Ziliak & Deirdre N. McCloskey, 2013. "We Agree That Statistical Significance Proves Essentially Nothing: A Rejoinder to Thomas Mayer," Econ Journal Watch, Econ Journal Watch, vol. 10(1), pages 97-107, January.
    9. Thomas Mayer, 2012. "Ziliak and McCloskey's Criticisms of Significance Tests: An Assessment," Econ Journal Watch, Econ Journal Watch, vol. 9(3), pages 256-297, September.
    10. Nicolas Vallois & Dorian Jullien, 2017. "Estimating Rationality in Economics: A History of Statistical Methods in Experimental Economics," GREDEG Working Papers 2017-20, Groupe de REcherche en Droit, Economie, Gestion (GREDEG CNRS), Université Côte d'Azur, France.
    11. Deirdre N. McCloskey & Stephen T. Ziliak, 2012. "Statistical Significance in the New Tom and the Old Tom: A Reply to Thomas Mayer," Econ Journal Watch, Econ Journal Watch, vol. 9(3), pages 298-308, September.
    12. Thomas Mayer, 2009. "Honesty and Integrity in Economics," Working Papers 92, University of California, Davis, Department of Economics.
    13. Song, Shijia & Tian, Fei & Li, Handong, 2021. "An intraday-return-based Value-at-Risk model driven by dynamic conditional score with censored generalized Pareto distribution," Journal of Asian Economics, Elsevier, vol. 74(C).

    More about this item

    Keywords

    significance test; t-test; econometrics; Hoover; Fisher; C10; C12; B41;
    All these keywords.

    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
    • B41 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Economic Methodology - - - Economic Methodology

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