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Matt Blackwell (Gov)


Martin Andersen (HealthPol)
Kevin Bartz (Stats)
Deirdre Bloome (Social Policy)
John Graves (HealthPol)
Rich Nielsen (Gov)
Maya Sen (Gov)
Gary King (Gov)

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Alberto Abadie, Lee Fleming, Adam Glynn, Guido Imbens, Gary King, Arthur Spirling, Jamie Robins, Don Rubin, Chris Winship

Weekly Workshop Schedule

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11 December 2007

Coding Analysis Toolkit looking for beta testers

A recent message to the Polmeth mailing list announced that a research group at the University of Pittsburgh is looking for beta testers for some new coding reliability software that they have developed:

The Coding Analysis Toolkit (or “CAT”) was developed in the summer of 2007. The system consists of a web-based suite of tools custom built from the ground-up to facilitate efficient and effective analysis of text datasets that have been coded using the commercial-off-the-shelf package ATLAS.ti ( We have recently posted a narrated slide show about CAT and a tutorial online. The Coding Analysis Toolkit was designed to use keystrokes and automation to clarify and speed-up the validation or consensus adjudication process. Special attention was paid during the design process to the need to eliminate the role of the computer mouse, thereby streamlining the physical and mental tasks in the coding analysis process. We anticipate that CAT will open new avenues for researchers interested in measuring and accurately reporting coder validity and reliability, as well as for those practicing consensus-based adjudication. The availability of CAT can improve the practice of qualitative data analysis at the University of Pittsburgh and beyond.

More information is avaliable at this website: This is far from my area of expertise, but it looks like it might be useful for some projects...

Posted by Mike Kellermann at 6:00 PM

10 December 2007

No Applied Statistics Workshop, Workshop Resumes Jan 30th

There will be no applied statistics workshop this Wednesday December 12th.

The workshop will resume on January 30th with a presentation from David Nickerson, University of Notre Dame-Department of Political Science.

Hope to see you all then and have a great holiday season.

Posted by Justin Grimmer at 12:09 PM

7 December 2007

New online ELS bibliography

Via the ELS Blog, there is news of a new effort organized by the law libraries at UCLA and Cornell to construct a bibliography of empirical research looking at questions in the legal realm. As a political scientist, it's kind of hard for me to conceptualize what an equivalent bibliography would look like for our field (other than unwieldy), but it looks like it could be quite useful for researchers both inside and outside of the legal academy. Now all we need is a translation of the journal abbreviations used by law reviews...

Posted by Mike Kellermann at 10:46 PM

5 December 2007

Holiday Gifts for the Data-Addicted

The infosthetics blog offers its "shopping guide for the data-addicted." I was intrigued by the chumby and nabaztag, two devices that offer the charms of the internet divorced from the keyboard/mouse/monitor setup. For the urban planner on your list, don't miss the fly swatter whose mesh is a street map of Milan. For the social science stats crowd, though, the best gift on the list has to be the Death and Taxes poster, depicting the US federal discretionary budget in remarkable detail and clarity. Click on the image below to get a close-up look at the poster.

Posted by Andy Eggers at 8:52 AM

4 December 2007

Mullainathan on How We Choose: Medicare Drug Plan Selection

Please join us for the final applied statistics workshop of the semester when Sendhil Mullainathan, Professor of Economics Harvard University,
will present 'How We Choose: Medicare Drug Plan Selection', work that is joint with Jeff Kling, Eldar Shafir, Lee Vermeulen, and Marian Wrobel.
Sendhil provided the following abstract:

Choices increasingly abound for various government supported services, ranging from charter schools to health plans. 24 million elderly Americans have enrolled in Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage during the past two years, and may choose among at least 40 plans. In this paper we examine the informational context in which choices are made and conduct an experiment of information provision, focusing on the decision about whether to switch plans during the open enrollment period in 2006, one year after the program began. We find that most participants obtain their information from mailings from plans and from Medicare. This information is not personalized, although the costs and benefits for a given plan vary greatly depending on specific prescriptions are used. Knowledge of how plans work is low. Personalized information is available by calling Medicare, but most participants do not seek information.

Our randomized experiment provided an intervention of personalized information (highlighting the predicted out-of-pocket cost of the current plan and the least expensive plan, and also listing costs of all plans -- based on information about prescription use) in comparison to a group that was provided information about accessing the Medicare website. The intervention group plan-switching rate was 28 percent, while the comparison group rate was 17 percent. The potential cost savings for those affected by the intervention was at least $230 on average. The impacts on switching and potential savings were larger for those with greater absolute and relative potential savings, and for those in small market share plans. The impacts on switching were larger for those initially in low premium plans. We conclude that additional efforts to distribute simple, personalized drug plan information would lead to significant reductions in Medicare beneficiaries' out-of-pocket costs and that the costs of such a program would likely be offset by reduced Medicare expenditures on subsidies to drug plans.

Here is a link to the paper.

As a reminder, the workshop meets at 12 noon and we provide a light lunch. We are located in room N-354, CGIS Knafel, 1737 Cambridge St.

Please contact me with any questions, or suggestions for next semester's schedule

Posted by Justin Grimmer at 10:29 AM

3 December 2007

Stress and birth outcomes

You might recall explanations of a gender bias at birth due to simple and sophisticated discrimination, or even infectious disease like hepatitis B. Last week’s Economist reports that in industrialized countries, the probability of getting a boy is slightly higher than getting a girl. More surprisingly, that extra chance of having a boy has been decreasing.

One new cause put forward is mother’s stress, acute or chronic, and there seems to be evidence that stressed mothers are more likely to give birth to girls. The explanation could be pathological or adaptive: the article suggests that in hard and stressful times, it makes evolutionary sense to have more girls.

I suspect that there are many omitted variables related to stress and other health behaviors. Apparently some studies find similar effects of stress using variation from natural disasters or terrorist attacks. Still, this won’t explain a pro-boy bias in developing countries (since stress should generally be higher there we would expect more girls to be born). But it’s an interesting aspect of a growing literature that takes psychological and environmental stress seriously.

Posted by Sebastian Bauhoff at 12:04 PM