Problem Sets

There are three graded problem sets during the semester, as well as one ungraded homework assignment early in the semester.

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Empirical Project

This project asks you to review, replicate, and extend an empirical paper from our reading list. The paper should be one that we have not covered in detail in class.

Your write-up should have three major components:

A. Review

  1. What questions does the study ask? Why are these questions of economic interest? What are the most important findings in the paper?

  2. Where does this paper fit in the relevant literature? What were the findings at the time the paper was written? What is the contribution of this particular paper? What has been done on this topic since this paper was published? Are the paper's findings still relevant?

  3. What data were used? Are they reliable enough for the researcher's purposes? Are better data available now? What would constitute an ideal data set?

  4. What would be an ideal research design for the question at hand? Are the econometric techniques used in the study sensible and do they appear to have been correctly implemented? What assumptions support a causal interpretation of the results presented in the paper? Are these assumptions discussed adequately? Are the results reasonably convincing – why or why not?

B. Replication

Identify the main findings and use the authors' data to replicate these results if possible. If the data cannot be obtained, construct the same sort of estimates using a data set of your choosing. Choose a data set that you would expect to generate similar results. Summarize and compare your replication results to the original results in a table. Discuss why you think your results differ from the original (if they do).

C. Extension

Extend the work in some way. Do this either by (a) estimating alternative interesting specifications that the author might have tried or that would shed further light on the issues raised in the paper (e.g., specification checks or subsamples of special interest), or (b) collecting new data and producing results for this new sample. Any analysis of new data should include specification and robustness checks of the sort you would hope to see in a study of this nature.

A word to the wise: The product of this exercise is an essay, not unlike the many that you will spend the rest of your life writing. So pick a style guide and master it (Strunk and White's The Elements of Style is my favorite). A second word: You'll spend the rest of your life writing about numbers. Strunk and White don't discuss that and it doesn't come naturally. Learn how to do it by imitating the good work of others.


There will be a 3-hour final exam at the end of the semester.

2009 final exam (PDF)