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Downloading Wisdom from Online Crowds

Author

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  • Saiz, Albert

    () (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

  • Simonsohn, Uri

    () (University of California, San Diego)

Abstract

The internet and other large textual databases contain billions of documents: is there useful information in the number of documents written about different topics? We propose, based on the premise that the occurrence of a phenomenon increases the likelihood that people write about it, that the relative frequency of documents discussing a phenomenon can be used to proxy for the corresponding occurrence-frequency. After establishing the conditions under which such proxying is likely to be successful, we construct proxies for a number of demographic variables in the US and for corruption across countries and US states and cities, obtaining average correlations with occurrence-frequencies of 0.47 and 0.61 respectively. We also replicate results from two separate published papers establishing the correlates of corruption at both the state and country level. Finally, we construct the first index of corruption in US cities and study its correlates.

Suggested Citation

  • Saiz, Albert & Simonsohn, Uri, 2008. "Downloading Wisdom from Online Crowds," IZA Discussion Papers 3809, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp3809
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    Cited by:

    1. Quoc-Anh Do & Yen-Teik Lee & Bang Dang Nguyen, 2013. "Political Connections and Firm Value: Evidence from the Regression Discontinuity Design of Close Gubernatorial Elections," Sciences Po publications 15, Sciences Po.
    2. Quoc-Anh Do & Bang Dang Nguyen & Yen-Teik Lee & Kieu-Trang Nguyen, 2011. "Out of Sight, Out of Mind:The Value of Political Connections in Social Networks," Working Papers 19-2011, Singapore Management University, School of Economics.
    3. repec:spo:wpecon:info:hdl:2441/7o52iohb7k6srk09n0dcia0po is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Stefano DellaVigna & Eliana La Ferrara, 2010. "Detecting Illegal Arms Trade," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 2(4), pages 26-57, November.
    5. Stephens-Davidowitz, Seth, 2014. "The cost of racial animus on a black candidate: Evidence using Google search data," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 118(C), pages 26-40.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    proxy variables; document-frequency; textual databases; internet;

    JEL classification:

    • J11 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Demographic Trends, Macroeconomic Effects, and Forecasts
    • C81 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Data Collection and Data Estimation Methodology; Computer Programs - - - Methodology for Collecting, Estimating, and Organizing Microeconomic Data; Data Access
    • B40 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Economic Methodology - - - General

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