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Methods Matter: P-Hacking and Causal Inference in Economics

Abel Brodeur, Nikolai Cook () and Anthony Heyes ()
Additional contact information
Nikolai Cook: University of Ottawa
Anthony Heyes: University of Ottawa

No 11796, IZA Discussion Papers from Institute of Labor Economics (IZA)

Abstract: The economics 'credibility revolution' has promoted the identification of causal relationships using difference-in-differences (DID), instrumental variables (IV), randomized control trials (RCT) and regression discontinuity design (RDD) methods. The extent to which a reader should trust claims about the statistical significance of results proves very sensitive to method. Applying multiple methods to 13,440 hypothesis tests reported in 25 top economics journals in 2015, we show that selective publication and p-hacking is a substantial problem in research employing DID and (in particular) IV. RCT and RDD are much less problematic. Almost 25% of claims of marginally significant results in IV papers are misleading.

Keywords: research methods; causal inference; p-curves; p-hacking; publication bias (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: A11 B41 C13 C44 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-hme, nep-hpe and nep-sog
Date: 2018-08
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