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Statistical Models and Shoe Leather

David A. Freedman
Sociological Methodology
Vol. 21 (1991), pp. 291-313
DOI: 10.2307/270939
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/270939
Page Count: 23
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Statistical Models and Shoe Leather
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Abstract

Regression models have been used in the social sciences at least since 1899, when Yule published a paper on the causes of pauperism. Regression models are now used to make causal arguments in a wide variety of applications, and it is perhaps time to evaluate the results. No definitive answers can be given, but this paper takes a rather negative view. Snow's work on cholera is presented as a success story for scientific reasoning based on nonexperimental data. Failure stories are also discussed, and comparisons may provide some insight. In particular, this paper suggests that statistical technique can seldom be an adequate substitute for good design, relevant data, and testing predictions against reality in a variety of settings.

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