Monday, October 27, 2008

More on the Milton Friedman Institute at Chicago

The saga continues, as detailed here.

I suspect that there is a backstory that is missing from the account in the Chicago Maroon piece that is referenced in the marginal revolution post I link to.

Alex is off base in the title of the MR post. This is certainly not about Heckman wanting the institute named after him. I suspect it has more to do with the fellow who tipped off MR to the Maroon article.

Levitt and Heckman have strong methodological differences. One can frame these derisively as cleverness versus substance but that is too strong and also not quite correct. A more serious framing would be in terms of the tradeoff between substantive import of topic and clarity of identification. Some important topics, typically those involving general equilibrium effects or programs that are mandatory for everyone such as social security, do not lend themselves to clean identification strategies. At present, and at the margin, having a clean identification strategy will help you more at the top general journals than having done the best you can with a substantively important topic and a less clean identification strategy. My impression is that Heckman would like this to change, at the margin of course. Such a preference is not at all inconsistent with valuing clarity in regard to identification; but clarity applies even to identification strategies that are not clean. Put differently, even strategies where validity is only somewhat compelling can be described clearly and their limitations described.