Mostly Harmless Econometrics: An Empiricist's Companion

By Joshua D. Angrist; Jörn-Steffen Pischke | Go to book overview

Chapter 1
Questions about Questions

[I checked it very thoroughly,] said the computer, [and that
quite definitely is the answer. I think the problem, to be quite
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This chapter briefly discusses the basis for a successful research project. Like the biblical story of Exodus, a research agenda can be organized around four questions. We call these frequently asked questions (FAQs), because they should be. The FAQs ask about the relationship of interest, the ideal experiment, the identification strategy, and the mode of inference.

In the beginning, we should ask, What is the causal relationship of interest? Although purely descriptive research has an important role to play, we believe that the most interesting research in social science is about questions of cause and effect, such as the effect of class size on children's test scores, discussed in chapters 2 and 6. A causal relationship is useful for making predictions about the consequences of changing circumstances or policies; it tells us what would happen in alternative (or [counterfactual]) worlds. For example, as part of a research agenda investigating human productive capacity— what labor economists call human capital—we have both investigated the causal effect of schooling on wages (Card, 1999, surveys research in this area). The causal effect of schooling on wages is the increment to wages an individual would receive if he or she got more schooling. A range of studies suggest the causal effect of a college degree is about 40 percent higher wages on average, quite a payoff. The causal

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Mostly Harmless Econometrics: An Empiricist's Companion
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Figures vii
  • Tables ix
  • Preface xi
  • Acknowledgments xv
  • Organization of This Book xvii
  • Part I - Preliminaries 1
  • Chapter 1 - Questions About Questions 3
  • Chapter 2 - The Experimental Ideal 11
  • Part II - The Core 25
  • Chapter 3 - Making Regression Make Sense 27
  • Chapter 4 - Instrumental Variables in Action: Sometimes You Get What You Need 113
  • Chapter 5 - Parallel Worlds: Fixed Effects, Differences-In-Differences, and Panel Data 221
  • Part III - Extensions 249
  • Chapter 6 - Getting a Little Jumpy: Regression Discontinuity Designs 251
  • Chapter 7 - Quantile Regression 269
  • Chapter 8 - Nonstandard Standard Error Issues 293
  • Last Words 327
  • Acronyms and Abbreviations 329
  • Empirical Studies Index 335
  • References 339
  • Index 361
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