The economist-as-audience needs a methodology of plausible inference

Journal of Economic Methodology 2 (2):201-222 (1995)
Abstract
Economists often try to make plausible inferences from a sizable empirical literature addressing a particular measurement, direction-of-effect, or testing issue. There are serious methodological problems associated with drawing such inferences. This article sets out some of these problems in order to make a case for their importance. After discussing these problems, the paper presents three case study examples of inference difficulties in specific literatures. It then proposes a new hypothesis about the time pattern of publication bias in empirical economics literatures. As support for this hypothesis, it presents evidence that ?reversals in findings? in empirical literatures in economics are not uncommon. Similarities are pointed out between the focus on inference problems in this paper, and the meta-analysis literatures in psychology and medical clinical trials.
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