Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Questions America Wants Answered: "Is Piketty’s Data Reliable?"

From Marginal Revolution:
When Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century first appeared many economists demurred on the theory but heaped praise on the empirical work. “Even if none of Piketty’s theories stands up,” Larry Summers argued, his “deeply grounded” and “painstaking empirical research” was “a Nobel Prize-worthy contribution”.
Theory is easier to evaluate than empirical work, however, and Phillip Magness and Robert Murphy were among the few authors to actually take a close look at Piketty’s data and they came to a different conclusion:
We find evidence of pervasive errors of historical fact, opaque methodological choices, and the cherry-picking of sources to construct favorable patterns from ambiguous data.
Magness and Murphy, however, could be dismissed as economic history outsiders with an ax to grind. Moreover, their paper was published in an obscure libertarian-oriented journal. (Chris Giles and Ferdinando Giugliano writing in the FT also pointed to errors but they could be dismissed as journalists.) The Magness and Murphy conclusions, however, have now been verified (and then some) by a respected figure in economic history, Richard Sutch.

I have never read an abstract quite like the one to Sutch’s paper...