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The Limits of p-Hacking : A Thought Experiment


  • Andrew Y. Chen


Suppose that asset pricing factors are just p-hacked noise. How much p-hacking is required to produce the 300 factors documented by academics? I show that, if 10,000 academics generate 1 factor every minute, it takes 15 million years of p-hacking. This absurd conclusion comes from applying the p-hacking theory to published data. To fit the fat right tail of published t-stats, the p-hacking theory requires that the probability of publishing t-stats

Suggested Citation

  • Andrew Y. Chen, 2019. "The Limits of p-Hacking : A Thought Experiment," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2019-016, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (US).
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgfe:2019-16
    DOI: 10.17016/FEDS.2019.016

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. R. David Mclean & Jeffrey Pontiff, 2016. "Does Academic Research Destroy Stock Return Predictability?," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 71(1), pages 5-32, February.
    2. Serhiy Kozak & Stefan Nagel & Shrihari Santosh, 2017. "Shrinking the Cross Section," NBER Working Papers 24070, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Kewei Hou & Chen Xue & Lu Zhang, 2015. "Editor's Choice Digesting Anomalies: An Investment Approach," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 28(3), pages 650-705.
    4. Mehra, Rajnish & Prescott, Edward C., 1985. "The equity premium: A puzzle," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(2), pages 145-161, March.
    5. repec:oup:rfinst:v:31:y:2018:i:7:p:2606-2649. is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Martin Lettau & Markus Pelger, 2018. "Factors that Fit the Time Series and Cross-Section of Stock Returns," NBER Working Papers 24858, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Lettau, Martin & Pelger, Markus, 2018. "Factors that Fit the Time Series and Cross-Section of Stock Returns," CEPR Discussion Papers 13049, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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    More about this item


    Stock return anomalies; Multiple testing; p-hacking; Publication bias;

    JEL classification:

    • G10 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - General (includes Measurement and Data)
    • G12 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Asset Pricing; Trading Volume; Bond Interest Rates

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