Stata's graphics capabilities--while certainly powerful--have always struck me as unduly complicated, certainly when it comes to coding graph commands. Consequently, it is with trepidation that I note a recent Stata Blog posting that illustrates Stata's animated graphics possibilities. (I also note that such efforts will necessarily involve video editing software (such as Camtasia or FFmpeg)). For those willing to invest the time/effort, however, the end results can be quite clever and interesting. Those inclined (and with time to burn) might want to look at some examples here.
“Whether as a result of low crime rates, the financial pressures of the 2008 credit crunch, or other factors, policymakers on both sides of the aisle are trying to rein or even reduce the US incarceration rate after an unprecedented forty-year expansion. Unfortunately, reforms are hampered by the fact that we do not have a solid empirical understanding of what caused the explosion in the first place. In fact, the "Standard Story" of prison growth generally overemphasizes less important factors and overlooks more important ones. This essay thus does two things. First, it points out the flaws in five key aspects of the Standard Story: its argument that the War on Drugs is of central importance, that trends in violent and property crimes are relatively unimportant, that longer sentence lengths drive growth, that the "criminal justice system" is a fairly coherent entity advancing specific goals, and that the “politics of crime control” is uniquely dysfunctional. And second, it argues that an increased willingness of the part of prosecutors to file charges — a causal factor almost completely overlooked by the Standard Story — is likely the most important force behind prison growth, at least for the past two decades.”
In an interesting exchange between Jacob Felson and Andrew Gelman, Gelman recommends resisting the urge to "adjudicate" competing interpretations of results (or, more specifically, "picking" one significant variable as a "cause" and another significant variable as a "moderator"). Gelman writes: "Rather than trying to isolate a single causal path, consider different cases of forward casual inference. My guess is that the different stories regarding moderators etc. could motivate different thought experiments (and, ultimately, different observational studies) regarding different potential interventions."
The SELS blog includes a link to a recent paper in JELS (11:1, 2014) that explores data breach litigation. In Empirical Analysis of Data Breach Litigation, Romanosky (NYU) et al., take an initial look into a decade's worth of privacy litigation with a particular eye towards disposition differences. The abstract follows.
"In recent years, many lawsuits have been filed by individuals seeking legal redress for harms caused by the loss or theft of their personal information. However, very little is known about the drivers, mechanics, and outcomes of those lawsuits, making it difficult to assess the effectiveness of litigation at balancing organizations’ usage of personal data with individual privacy rights. Using a unique and manually collected database, we analyze court dockets for more than 230 federal data breach lawsuits from 2000 to 2010. We investigate two questions: Which data breaches are being litigated? And which data breach lawsuits are settling? Our results suggest that the odds of a firm being sued are 3.5 times greater when individuals suffer financial harm, but 6 times lower when the firm provides free credit monitoring. Moreover, defendants settle 30 percent more often when plaintiffs allege financial loss, or when faced with a certified class action suit. By providing the first comprehensive empirical analysis of data breach litigation, our findings offer insight into the debate over privacy litigation versus privacy regulation."
By addressing important causation challenges, identical twins provide unique research design opportunities. A well-designed study exploiting identical twins facilitates the need to control for unobservables--including as an important subset, genetic endowments--in analyses that explore the impact of one variable on outcomes of interest. An article in today's NYT (here) describes NASA's current effort to increase understanding of the effects of living in space by studying identical twin astronauts, one of whom will soon return from a full year aboard the International Space Station.
The good folks at UCLA maintain an exceptionally rich and deep collection of online resources germane to ELS. Insofar as much secondary analysis involves pulling data stored at ICPSR, this web-based seminar might interest. While it relates specifically to UCLA's data archive, the general points apply to most data archives, including ICPSR.
In a wonderful sign of the times, a leading research university in Wales (UK) seeks to fill a Chair devoted to ELS. "Swansea University College of Law wishes to further augment its interdisciplinary research through the appointment of a Chair in Empirical Legal Studies. We seek a research leader with training in criminology, social sciences and law whose work is focused in quantitative methods as they are applied to law, institutions of criminal justice, and human behaviour." Further information can be found here. Inquiries should be directed to the Head of College, Prof. John Linarelli (at: J.Linarelli@swansea.ac.uk). Please note that the application deadline is 16 April 2014.
Information on two separate (Main and Advanced) Causal Inference Workshops at Northwestern Law School this summer follows. Both workshops will be taught by leading causal inference researchers. Registration for each is limited to 100 participants.
Main workshop: Monday – Friday, July 7-11, 2014 [at Northwestern]
Advanced workshop: Wednesday - Friday, August 13-15, 2014 [at Duke]
For information and to register for either or both workshops: (click here)
Main Workshop Overview and Target Audience: Most empirical methods courses survey a variety of methods. We will begin instead with the goal of causal inference, and discuss how to design research to come closer to that goal. The methods are often adapted to a particular study. Some of the methods we will discuss are covered in PhD programs, but rarely in depth, and rarely with a focus on causal inference and on which methods to prefer for messy, real-world datasets with limited sample sizes. Each day will include with a Stata “workshop” to illustrate selected methods with real data and Stata code. We will assume knowledge, at the level of an upper-level college econometrics or similar course,of multivariate regression, including OLS, logit, and probit; basic probability and statistics including conditional and compound probabilities, confidence intervals, t-statistics, and standard errors; and some understanding of instrumental variables.
Advanced Workshop Overview and Target Audience: The advanced workshop seeks to provide an in-depth discussion of selected topics at the causal inference research frontier.Our target audience is empirical researchers who are familiar with the basics of causal inference (from our main workshop or otherwise), and want to extend their knowledge.
Building off of Johnson & Johnson's recent decision to make all of its clinical data available to scientists around the world (favorable New York Time op-ed here), Dave Schwartz (Chicago-Kent) and co-authors make the case (here) that this same impulse should extend to empirical legal studies as well, particularly studies of patent assertion entities ("PAE"). An excerpt follows.
"Why is more information about PAE litigation not public? After all, the underlying data relates to litigation in the federal courts, and thus does not implicate privacy concerns like in the medical context. However, most of the raw data has been gathered and coded by private companies. For-profit businesses legitimately desire to use the information within their business and to prevent competitors and others from using commercially valuable information. That said, we believe corporate owners should release as much of the raw data (not merely descriptive statistics) as they can. To the extent that the raw data is not released or shared, society should be extremely cautious before relying upon it to make important public policy decisions."
It is with profound sadness and regret that I note the passing of a colleague, co-author, friend, and mentor, Ted Eisenberg. Cornell Law School and the entire empirical legal scholarship community lost a gracious colleague, an intellectual giant, and a true pioneer in empirical legal studies. Ted was a man of uncommon decency, whose fertile mind, generous spirit, and unadorned manner sat easily with the great force of his scholarly vision and scope. He is deeply missed.
"The University of Missouri is issuing a call for proposals for an upcoming works-in-progress conference as well as a call for papers for a student writing competition. Both of these calls are affiliated with a symposium that is being convened at the University of Missouri's Center for the Study of Dispute Resolution on Friday, October 10, 2014.
The symposium is entitled "Judicial Education and the Art of Judging: From Myth to Methodology" and addresses a number of issues relating to the role of judges and the goals and methods of judicial education. The symposium features the Honorable Duane Benton of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit as keynote speaker as well as an accomplished group of judges, academics, and judicial education experts from the United States and Canada as panelists.
The day before the symposium (Thursday, October 9, 2014), the University of Missouri will be hosting a works-in-progress conference relating to the subject matter of the symposium, broadly interpreted. Presentation proposals should be no more than one page in length and can include analyses that are practical, theoretical or interdisciplinary in nature. Participants can discuss judges at the state, federal or international level. Proposals for the works-in-progress conference should be directed to Professor S.I. Strong (firstname.lastname@example.org) and will be accepted until May 26, 2014. Decisions regarding accepted papers will be made in June 2014. Prospective attendees should note that there is no funding available to assist participants with their travel expenses.
The University of Missouri is also organizing a student writing competition in association with the symposium. Papers will likely be due in August 2014, although precise details (such as the due date and the amount of any prize money associated with the competition) are still being finalized."
More information about the symposium, works-in-progress conference, and student writing competition is available at the symposium website. Those interested or with questions should contact Professor S.I. Strong (email@example.com) directly.
In a bow to its market, the folks at Stata continue to tinker with Excel interfaces. Stata v.13 introduces a new command, putexcel, which enables Stata users to create tables in an Excel file (described here). A recent post to the Stata Blog describes a few new options, available in Stata 13.1. Specifically, Stata 13.1 includes a new option, keepcellformat. The option retains a cell’s format after writing numeric data to it. The keepcellformat option will interest people who want to automate the updating of a report or paper.