Given the recent hubbub over the errors in Rogoff and Reinhart’s famous 90 percent debt-to-GDP ratio, perhaps it’s time for a serious re-examination of publishing practices in our field. Sometimes embarrassments like this can prompt us to action, and perhaps this one will.
While this particular error is squarely in the lap of Rogoff and Reinhart, I think it is symptomatic of a broad failure to ensure that empirical results are replicable, which is the “gold standard by which the reliability of scientific claims are judged” (National Research Council, 2001). The lack of replicability of empirical models in economics should be an embarrassment to a field that has been trying (mistakenly, in my view) to catch up with the big boys in the natural sciences.
The NSF requires that researchers who receive funding archive their data so that others can replicate the results, but many academic journals in economics do not. Perhaps we should follow the NSF lead in this regard. A number of economists do upload data to their own personal or university websites, making the data freely available to others – a great practice, but obviously insufficient. While referees and/or editors will sometimes ask for access to data when reviewing scholarly papers, this seems to happen far less often than it should; moreover, it is anything but uniform across journals and editors. Even those journals that have policies requiring submission of data do not seem to have particularly compelling incentives for authors to actually cooperate (in this 2007 paper, Daniel Hamermesh pointed out that the editor of JMCB sought data sets and documentation from authors with accepted papers in that journal, but only got about one-third of them).
Mark Thoma at Economist’s View linked to an NPR story asking how much we should trust economics. Given the lack of true transparency in empirical work, that’s a very good question indeed.
Jon Hatzius on the rapidly shrinking federal budget deficit (from Calculated Risk)
Paul Krugman on Japan, and monetary policy in a liquidity trap
Robert Solow on Bernanke’s Fed
Barry Eichengreen on the use and abuse of monetary history
The latest John Bates Clark winner, Raj Chetty
Not quite yet, perhaps, but things do not seem to be going well. Here, courtesy CNN, is the percent change in quarterly PC sales, which just suffered the worst drop in history.
The labor force participation rate, currently at 63.3 percent, is at the lowest level we have seen since 1979. Calculated Risk digs into the details here.
Greg Mankiw directs us to a revealing comment from HHS head Kathleen Sebelius:
A friend points me to this passage:
At a White House briefing Tuesday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said some of what passes for health insurance today is so skimpy it can’t be compared to the comprehensive coverage available under the law. “Some of these folks have very high catastrophic plans that don’t pay for anything unless you get hit by a bus,” she said. “They’re really mortgage protection, not health insurance.”
I have the same problem with my other insurance policies. My homeowner insurance doesn’t cover the cost when my gutters need cleaning, and my car insurance doesn’t cover the cost when I need to fill the tank with gas. Instead, the policies cover only catastrophic events, like my house burning down or a major accident. Now that the Obama administration has fixed the health insurance system, I trust they will soon move on to solve these other problems.
And here’s part of an old post by Paul Krugman, who comments on Kenneth Arrow’s famous health insurance paper:
One is that you don’t know when or whether you’ll need care — but if you do, the care can be extremely expensive. The big bucks are in triple coronary bypass surgery, not routine visits to the doctor’s office; and very, very few people can afford to pay major medical costs out of pocket.
That’s right – but isn’t triple coronary bypass surgery the health care services equivalent of getting hit by a bus? Arrow himself assumed that medical care was distinct from preventative services, which represented some significant “departure from the normal state of affairs” and which carried the potential for significant reductions in earnings ability due to serious injury, etc. I’m not sure that chiropractic services and acupuncture really qualify (of course, what’s specifically covered under ACA is determined by the states – but these are some of the services that will be offered).
Angus Burgin on Hayek, Friedman, and the Republican Party
The New York Times on a Housing Boom?
Don Boudreaux wallops the “War on Drugs”