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Predicting Presidential Elections and Other Things

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Course DatesWeeksMeeting TimesStatusInstructor(s)CRN
July 13, 2015 - July 31, 20153M-F 3:15-6:05POpenSimon Freyaldenhoven10671

Course Description

Presidential Elections, marathon times, wine quality, extramarital affairs, interest rates. What all of these topics have in common is that they can all be explained and analyzed using the tools of Econometrics and Statistics. Did you ever wonder how Nate Silver reaches his election predictions? Did you watch Moneyball and wondered how it was possible for an economist to take the Oakland Athletics to a 20 game winning streak?

These are some of the topics we will be discussing in this course. Essentially this class can be seen as an introduction to quantitative research in the social sciences. Through the analysis of a wide range of topics such as those indicated below, students will gain a deeper understanding not only of those topics but also of the ways topics like these are analysed.

We will generally start by proposing a theory, then proceed to gather data, and use this data to test our theory. We will then address potential pitfalls and critically evaluate our results. Finally we will be discussing implications of and predictions from our results. In other words we will be moving from a general idea of how something works to a specific prediction of what it will be like in the future.

While this class is somewhat mathematically involved and the introduction to some basic statistical techniques is inevitable given the nature of this class, this will be kept to a minimum and the main focus will be on its applications.

By the end of this course, students will be able to critically evaluate the quality of data analyses. They will be able to judge the conclusions and predictions drawn from the analysis of data and recognize potential pitfalls. Further, upon completion of this course, students will be able to conduct some basic data analysis themselves.

This class does not require any formal prerequisites. However, some affinity with mathematics will be helpful and/or expected.