PoS seminar 29.3. with Harold Kincaid

At the next Perspectives on Science seminar on Monday 29.3., Harold Kincaid (University of Cape Town) will give a presentation titled “Making Progress on Causal Inference in Economics”. The seminar takes place in Zoom from 2 to 4 pm, Helsinki time (UTC+3).

Please notice that Finland will switch to summer time. The time zone is different from previous seminars.

Perspectives on Science is a weekly research seminar which brings together experts from science studies and philosophy of science. It is organized by TINT – Centre for Philosophy of Social Science at the University of Helsinki. More information about the seminar here.

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Enormous progress has been made on causal inference and modeling in areas outside of economics. We now have a full semantics for causality in a number of empirically relevant situations. This semantics is provided by causal graphs and allows provable precise formulation of causal relations and testable deductions from them. The semantics also allows provable rules for sufficient and biasing covariate adjustment and algorithms for deducing causal structure from data. I outline these developments, show how they describe three basic kinds of causal inference situations that standard multiple regression practice in econometrics frequently gets wrong, and show how these errors can be remedied. I also show that instrumental variables, despite claims to the contrary, do not solve these potential errors and are subject to the same morals. I argue both from the logic of elemental causal situations and from simulated data with nice statistical properties and known causal models. I apply these general points to a reanalysis of the Sachs and Warner model and data on resource abundance and growth. I finish with open potentially fruitful questions.

Author bio:

Harold Kincaid is Professor of Economics at the University of Cape Town. Early books were Philosophical Foundations of the Social Sciences (Cambridge 1996) and Individualism and the Unity of Science (Rowman and Littlefield 1997). He is the coeditor of many books, including the OUP Handbooks of Philosophy of Economics, of Social Science and of Political Science (forthcoming) and of the forthcoming A Modern Guide to Philosophy of Economics (Elgar). He is the author of numerous journal articles and book chapters in the philosophy of science and social science. In addition to his philosophy of science work, Kincaid does work in experimental economics focusing primarily on risk and time attitude elicitation, currently in the context of covid.