Mostly Harmless Econometrics: An Empiricist's Companion

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

Chapter 2
The Experimental Ideal

It is an important and popular fact that things are not always
what they seem. For instance, on the planet Earth, man had
always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins
because he had achieved so much—the wheel, New York,
wars and so on—while all the dolphins had ever done was
muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely,
the dolphins had always believed that they were far more
intelligent than man—for precisely the same reasons. In fact
there was only one species on the planet more intelligent than
dolphins, and they spent a lot of their time in behavioral
research laboratories running round inside wheels and
conducting frighteningly elegant and subtle experiments on
man. The fact that once again man completely misinterpreted
this relationship was entirely according to these creatures'
plans.

Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

The most credible and influential research designs use random assignment. A case in point is the Perry preschool project, a 1962 randomized experiment designed to assess the effects of an early intervention program involving 123 black preschoolers in Ypsilanti, Michigan. The Perry treatment group was randomly assigned to an intensive intervention that included preschool education and home visits. It's hard to exaggerate the impact of the small but well-designed Perry experiment, which generated follow-up data through 1993 on the participants at age 27. Dozens of academic studies cite or use the Perryfindings (see, e.g., Barnett, 1992). Most important, the Perry project provided the intellectual basis for the massive Head Start preschool program, begun in 1964,

-11-

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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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