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Natural Experiments in the Social Sciences: A Design-Based Approach [Hardcover]

Thad Dunning

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Book Description

Oct. 8 2012 1107017661 978-1107017665
This unique book is the first comprehensive guide to the discovery, analysis, and evaluation of natural experiments - an increasingly popular methodology in the social sciences. Thad Dunning provides an introduction to key issues in causal inference, including model specification, and emphasizes the importance of strong research design over complex statistical analysis. Surveying many examples of standard natural experiments, regression-discontinuity designs, and instrumental-variables designs, Dunning highlights both the strengths and potential weaknesses of these methods, aiding researchers in better harnessing the promise of natural experiments while avoiding the pitfalls. Dunning also demonstrates the contribution of qualitative methods to natural experiments and proposes new ways to integrate qualitative and quantitative techniques. Chapters complete with exercises, and appendices covering specialized topics such as cluster-randomized natural experiments, make this an ideal teaching tool as well as a valuable book for professional researchers.

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"Dunning has produced a useful and remarkably accessible guide for social scientists of all sorts. I especially like his guide to discovering natural experiments." - J. D. Angrist, Department of Economics, MIT

"One of the most exciting developments in contemporary political science is the use of natural experiments to estimate causal effects. In this illuminating and highly readable book, Thad Dunning provides an expert guide to the strengths and weaknesses of this cutting-edge method, demonstrating how researchers can use natural experiments as a powerful tool for causal inference while avoiding common mistakes. I recommend this book to both beginning and experienced researchers." - Alan S. Gerber, Charles C. and Dorathea S. Dilley Professor of Political Science, Yale University

"The biggest problem social scientists face is figuring out what causes what. Does economic growth cause peace or is it the other way round? Do people adopt the values of their friends or just gravitate to others that think like them? Most of the time these questions are unanswerable but every now and then there's a chink in nature's armor. A windfall or crisis throws an economy off course, a fire or flood forces people into new social networks. Natural experimentalists seek out such moments to shine a light on underlying orders. But, as Dunning shows, the natural experimentalist's path is treacherous. In this first serious treatment of natural experiments in social science, Dunning sets down standards and shares techniques to help ensure real learning from such rare moments." - Macartan Humphreys, Professor, Columbia University

"A remarkable synthesis not just of how to do empirical work, but how to do social science. Indispensible." - James Robinson, David Florence Professor of Government, Harvard University

Book Description

This book provides scholars and students with the first comprehensive guide to the use and evaluation of natural experiments - an increasingly popular methodology in the social sciences. It introduces the key issues in causal inference, including model specification, and emphasizes the importance of strong research design over complex statistical analysis.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive approach to natural experiments in political science April 29 2013
By Sarah Schwartz - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Causal inference texts are still rare, and this text fills a needed void. The text includes problems after every chapter. The explanations are written clearly. Tables list many natural experiments, mostly from political science, but also from economics, education, and famous examples such as John Snow's 1855 cholera study. Causal inference texts are often multidisciplinary, but this book is more focused on political science than other fields of social science, despite its title. This text could be reasonable for a political science course. For economics or other fields, I think that Angrist and Pischke's Mostly Harmless Econometrics is better for the same topics. Most/all examples from health/medicine are from David Freedman's books, so not comprehensive.
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