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Friday, April 08, 2011

The Quest for "Significance" in Social Science

Referred by a Monkey Cage post (prominent political science blog) I wanted to bring people's attention to a new article in the journal European Political Science critiquing how many social scientists search for and interpret "significance."

Determinants of Age in Europe: A Pooled Multilevel Nested Hierarchical Time-Series Cross-Sectional Model
Uchen Bezimenia, European Political Science (2011) 10, 86–91
Age is often found to be associated with a plenitude of socioeconomic, politico-administrative, biological and thanatological variables. Much less attention has been paid by scholars, however, to explaining ‘age’. In this paper we address this unfortunate scientific lacuna by developing a model of ‘age’ as a function of several factors suggested by (post)rational choice and social constructionist theories. Using state-of-the-art multilevel statistical techniques, our analysis allows the determinants of age to vary with the institutional characteristics of European countries. Our findings convincingly show that generalized trust in strangers, support for incumbent extremist political parties in provincial elections held in the month of January, and the percentage of overqualified women in the cafeterias of national parliaments are all statistically significant explanations of ‘age’. Our findings have obvious implications for conspiracy theorists, organizational advisors, spin doctors and ordinary charlatans.

1 comment:

William "Chip" Eveland said...

I believe they should have used adjusted standard errors. Had they done so, their results would have been entirely different! :-)