Department of Uh-oh

Ceteris paribus, well-being reaches a minimum, on both sides of the Atlantic, in people’s mid to late 40s.

Here is the paper.  It’s a good thing I don’t believe in that nasty happiness research…although here is a good defense of it

Addendum: Speaking of the limits of economics, here is an excellent piece (excerpts only, buy today’s WSJ) on whether economists should study autism.


I don't understand the big deal about the autism paper. At worst, the researchers have found interesting correlations that merit further study. At best, they've found a causal relationship. Even if it is an endogeneous variable, like mold correlated with precipitation as one researcher points out, isn't this something new?

Also, regarding the Heckman quote in the article. Heckman said similar things in an interview with the Fed a year or two ago. He is very critical of the popularity of instrumental variables in economics. I think he even was criticizing some of his younger colleagues at Chicago whose careers and accolades are entirely due to novel usage of IV. So it's not surprising that he speaks out so strongly in this article. I don't know whether to interpret his criticism as criticism against the TV->autism paper itself, or against more general trends in applied microeconomics.

Also, that the paper cannot ultimately determine what the precise biological/neurological mechanism between TV viewing and autism seems unfair. It's like criticizing a marathon runner for not being able to fly. Don't critique the paper for something it's not designed to do in the first place. The paper is intended to test a narrow hypothesis, not solve the autism puzzle completely.

Ah, yes. It helps when reading such studies to go to the primary sources. For instance, you should read the comments about that paper on the Live Journal Asperger's community. Boos, hisses, catcalls, and "I was reading a book, not watching the idiot box", predominated. Not to mention "And what about before TV was invented?"

Russell Roberts at CafeHayek shares the WSJ skepticism and suggests doing an actual experiment.

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