This is actually the post that started it all. When I first saw this paper by economists Bill Dupor of Ohio State and Timothy Conley of the University of Western Ontario, I knew that I needed to start blogging about misuses of statistics. However, I wanted my first post to be more accessible and less technical, so I’ve been holding off on writing this until now, when hopefully my audience will now bear with me through a more technical post (of course, this delay allowed Noah Smith to kind of scoop me on this one, but what can you do?).
I was just about ready to hit the roof when I first read this paper. The statistical mistakes made in it are appalling, and to make matters worse, they’re made by people who should know better. I’m willing to cut journalists some slack when they make statistical mistakes, but given their graduate school curricula, and given that almost every research university in the Western world keeps at least one statistician on staff specifically for the purpose of helping social scientists who are writing papers, economists have absolutely no excuse. As for the way that this paper has been treated by people aside from its authors? More on that infuriating topic later.