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The economist-as-audience needs a methodology of plausible inference

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  • Robert Goldfarb

Abstract

Economists often try to make plausible inferences from a sizable empirical literature addressing a particular measurement, direction-of-effect, or testing issue. There are serious methodological problems associated with drawing such inferences. This article sets out some of these problems in order to make a case for their importance. After discussing these problems, the paper presents three case study examples of inference difficulties in specific literatures. It then proposes a new hypothesis about the time pattern of publication bias in empirical economics literatures. As support for this hypothesis, it presents evidence that 'reversals in findings' in empirical literatures in economics are not uncommon. Similarities are pointed out between the focus on inference problems in this paper, and the meta-analysis literatures in psychology and medical clinical trials.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert Goldfarb, 1995. "The economist-as-audience needs a methodology of plausible inference," Journal of Economic Methodology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 2(2), pages 201-222.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:jecmet:v:2:y:1995:i:2:p:201-222
    DOI: 10.1080/13501789500000015
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    1. Smith, V. Kerry & Osborne, Laura L., 1996. "Do Contingent Valuation Estimates Pass a "Scope" Test? A Meta-analysis," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 31(3), pages 287-301, November.
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    1. Mark J. Koetse & Henri L.F. de Groot & Raymond J.G.M. Florax, 2011. "A Meta-Regression Analysis of the Investment–Uncertainty Relationship," Chapters, in: Raymond J.G.M. Florax & Henri L.F. de Groot & Peter Mulder (ed.), Improving Energy Efficiency through Technology, chapter 7, Edward Elgar Publishing.
    2. Neves, Pedro Cunha & Afonso, Óscar & Silva, Sandra Tavares, 2016. "A Meta-Analytic Reassessment of the Effects of Inequality on Growth," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 78(C), pages 386-400.
    3. Thomas Mayer, "undated". "The Domain Of Theories And Tests By The Realism Of Assumptions," Department of Economics 98-11, California Davis - Department of Economics.
    4. Stanley, T.D. & Doucouliagos, Chris & Jarrell, Stephen B., 2008. "Meta-regression analysis as the socio-economics of economics research," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 37(1), pages 276-292, February.
    5. Afonso, Oscar & Neves, Pedro Cunha & Pinto, Tiago, 2020. "The non-observed economy and economic growth: A meta-analysis," Economic Systems, Elsevier, vol. 44(1).
    6. Nils Goldschmidt & Benedikt Szmrecsanyi, 2007. "What Do Economists Talk About? A Linguistic Analysis of Published Writing in Economic Journals," American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 66(2), pages 335-378, April.
    7. Havranek, Tomas & Irsova, Zuzana & Janda, Karel, 2012. "Demand for gasoline is more price-inelastic than commonly thought," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 34(1), pages 201-207.
    8. Tomáš Havránek, 2010. "Rose effect and the euro: is the magic gone?," Review of World Economics (Weltwirtschaftliches Archiv), Springer;Institut für Weltwirtschaft (Kiel Institute for the World Economy), vol. 146(2), pages 241-261, June.
    9. JS Armstrong & Roderick J. Brodie & Andrew G. Parsons, 2004. "Hypotheses in Marketing Science: Literature Review and Publication Audit," General Economics and Teaching 0412013, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    10. Stanley, T. D., 2000. "An empirical critique of the Lucas critique," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 91-107.
    11. Bergeijk Peter A.G. van & Demena Binyam A. & Reta Alemayehu & Jativa Gabriela Benalcazar & Kimararungu Patrick, 2019. "Could the literature on the economic determinants of sanctions be biased?," Peace Economics, Peace Science, and Public Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 25(4), pages 1-4, December.
    12. Peter A. G. van Bergeijk, 2020. "Can the Sanction Debate Be Resolved?," CESifo Forum, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 20(04), pages 3-8, January.
    13. Chris Doucouliagos & T.D. Stanley, 2013. "Are All Economic Facts Greatly Exaggerated? Theory Competition And Selectivity," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 27(2), pages 316-339, April.
    14. Thomas Mayer, 2006. "The Empirical Significance of Econometric Models," Working Papers 620, University of California, Davis, Department of Economics.
    15. Tomáš Havránek, 2009. "Rose Effect and the Euro: The Magic is Gone," Working Papers IES 2009/20, Charles University Prague, Faculty of Social Sciences, Institute of Economic Studies, revised Aug 2009.
    16. Demena, B.A. & Benalcazar Jativa, G. & Reta, A.S. & Kimararungu, P.B. & van Bergeijk, P.A.G., 2021. "Does research on economic sanctions suffer from publication bias?," ISS Working Papers - General Series 674, International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam (ISS), The Hague.
    17. Mariusz Maziarz, 2019. "The unrealistic realist philosophy. The ontology of econometrics revisited," The Journal of Philosophical Economics, Bucharest Academy of Economic Studies, The Journal of Philosophical Economics, vol. 13(1), pages 39-64, November.
    18. Mariusz MAZIARZ, 2017. "‘Growth in a Time of Debt’ as an example of the logical-positivist science," The Journal of Philosophical Economics, Bucharest Academy of Economic Studies, The Journal of Philosophical Economics, vol. 10(2), pages 47-64, May.
    19. Havranek, Tomas & Kokes, Ondrej, 2015. "Income elasticity of gasoline demand: A meta-analysis," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 47(C), pages 77-86.
    20. Mark J. Koetse & Raymond J.G.M. Florax & Henri L.F. de Groot, 2007. "The Impact of Effect Size Heterogeneity on Meta-Analysis: A Monte Carlo Experiment," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 07-052/3, Tinbergen Institute.
    21. Tomas Havranek & Zuzana Irsova, 2012. "Survey Article: Publication Bias in the Literature on Foreign Direct Investment Spillovers," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 48(10), pages 1375-1396, October.
    22. Calvin Blackwell, 2007. "A Meta-Analysis of Tax Compliance Experiments," International Center for Public Policy Working Paper Series, at AYSPS, GSU paper0724, International Center for Public Policy, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University.
    23. T. D. Stanley, 2001. "Wheat from Chaff: Meta-analysis as Quantitative Literature Review," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 15(3), pages 131-150, Summer.

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