Misusing aggregate data: the case of child care in Australia

Craig Freedman, Alison Vicary

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Abstract

If you open that Pandora’s Box, you never know what Trojan ‘orses will jump out (Ernest Bevin, quoted in Barclay 1975: 32).Economists share a common weakness, perhaps motivated by an implacable desire to display their own cleverness. They can’t seem to resist the temptation to demonstrate that commonly held beliefs and perceptions are incorrect. A skilled economist can try deftly to convince a gullible public that the truth of a matter is in fact diametrically opposed to common wisdom. This self-selected trait within the economics profession can be sometimes useful. It implies a genuine reluctance to accept assertions at face value simply because they coincide with popularly held beliefs. Unfortunately, it can also lead economists, when faced with uncongenial opinions, to try to retrofit an argument, or an interpretation of evidence, so that it leads to a preferred result. A recent piece of economic analysis focusing on the issue of child care (Davidoff 2007) seems to reflect this tendency.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119-133
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Australian Political Economy
Issue number59
Publication statusPublished - 2007

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