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Applied Research Methods for Economists

This course is expected to run but has not yet been scheduled.

Course Description

Does ice cream cause Polio? In 1952, social scientists were convinced that ice cream caused polio, since rates of polio and ice cream consumption seemed to rise in the summer and decline in the winter. Today, we know that ice cream consumption has no causal relationship with polio. This example illustrates the importance of distinguishing correlation from causation. This course will teach you techniques to evaluate and think critically about any empirical research you might come across in scientific journals, on the news, or even on Facebook.

Correlation is not causality, and even though the above example may seem absurd, it lays out the fundamental questions that social scientists wrestle with on a day-to-day basis: Is x correlated with y or does x cause y?

To answer these questions, various econometric techniques have been established to help social scientists distinguish between the two. This class will go over various techniques that have been developed over time such as Randomized experiments, linear regression models, instrumental variables, and differences models. These techniques are at the forefront of econometrics and are a valuable skill for students who intend to work with data and for those who want to be able to effectively critique and analyze information. To illustrate the techniques in various contexts, students will be exposed to topics across multiple fields of applied economic research including health, labor, political economy, urban economics and development.

The class will be taught through lectures, open discussions, group projects, and lab exercises that are designed to help reinforce the course lessons. At the end of the course, students will have a greater understanding of research methods used by economists to establish causality in a complex world and most importantly have the tools to do their own effective analysis on any question of interest.

The prerequisite for this course is Basic Algebra.