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Mariusz Maziarz: a new publication in Synthese

Mariusz Maziarz: a new publication in Synthese

The results of econometric modeling are fragile in the sense that minor changes in estimation techniques or sample can lead to statistical models that support inconsistent causal hypotheses. The fragility of econometric results undermines making conclusive inferences from the empirical literature. I argue that the program of evidential pluralism, which originated in the context of medicine and encapsulates to the normative reading of the Russo-Williamson Thesis that causal claims need the support of both difference-making and mechanistic evidence (...)

Full abstract

The results of econometric modeling are fragile in the sense that minor changes in estimation techniques or sample can lead to statistical models that support inconsistent causal hypotheses. The fragility of econometric results undermines making conclusive inferences from the empirical literature. I argue that the program of evidential pluralism, which originated in the context of medicine and encapsulates to the normative reading of the Russo-Williamson Thesis that causal claims need the support of both difference-making and mechanistic evidence, offers a ground for resolving empirical disagreements. I analyze a recent econometric controversy regarding the tax elasticity of cigarette consumption and smoking intensity. Both studies apply plausible estimation techniques but report inconsistent results. I show that mechanistic evidence allows for discriminating econometric models representing genuine causal relations from accidental dependencies in data. Furthermore, I discuss the differences between biological and social mechanisms and mechanistic evidence across the disciplines. I show that economists mainly rely on mathematical models to represent possible mechanisms (i.e., mechanisms that could produce a phenomenon of interest). Still, claiming the actuality of the represented mechanisms requires establishing that crucial assumptions of these models are descriptively adequate. I exemplify my approach to assessing the quality of mechanistic evidence in economics with an analysis of two models of rational addiction.

Link to the article

Maziarz, M. (2021). Resolving empirical controversies with mechanistic evidence. Synthese. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-021-03232-2

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