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# The thing that people just don’t get about statistics

Summary:
The thing that people just don’t get about statistics The thing that people just don’t get is that is just how easy it is to get “p less than .01” using uncontrolled comparisons … Statistics educators, including myself, have to take much of the blame for this sad state of affairs. We go around sending the message that it’s possible to get solid causal inference from experimental or observational data, as long as you have a large enough sample size and a good identification strategy. People such as the authors of the above article then take us at our word, gather large datasets, find identification strategies, and declare victory. The thing we didn’t say in our textbooks was that this approach doesn’t work so well in the absence of clean data and strong

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## The thing that people just don’t get about statistics

The thing that people just don’t get is that is just how easy it is to get “p less than .01” using uncontrolled comparisons …

Statistics educators, including myself, have to take much of the blame for this sad state of affairs.

We go around sending the message that it’s possible to get solid causal inference from experimental or observational data, as long as you have a large enough sample size and a good identification strategy.

People such as the authors of the above article then take us at our word, gather large datasets, find identification strategies, and declare victory. The thing we didn’t say in our textbooks was that this approach doesn’t work so well in the absence of clean data and strong theory …

The issue is not that “p less than .01” is useless—there are times when “p less than .01” represents strong evidence—but rather that this p-value says very little on its own.

Andrew Gelman

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Professor at Malmö University. Primary research interest - the philosophy, history and methodology of economics.