Economic Woman

Econometrics, gender, equity and more.

The pitfalls of relying on American social science

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WCI has a fantastic post up about the disproportionate amount of economic research that is about the United States. Frances Woolley suggests that this is in part a matter of data availability, and that’s something I can second. But the post really shines when she gets to the implications of this imbalance:

American experiences are seen as general. (A particularly absurd manifestation of this occurs in international relations, where people will write “A superpower like the United States…” There is no superpower like the US. […])

[…] In medical research, it probably doesn’t matter whether Canadian or American data is used. A medical treatment that works south of the border will generally work north of the border as well. Indeed, drug trials are not-uncommonly carried out in low-income countries to save costs. The generalizability of studies based on US economic data to Canada is less well-established.

I worry that this is especially true in some of the areas I am most interested in, like education. Of course, that’s difficult to verify without more research. It’s kind of a circular problem, really.

If the US is a bad model for other developed economies, what are we likely getting wrong?


Written by Allison

15 January 2011 at 11:54 am

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