An interview with Joshua D. Angrist & Jörn-Steffen Pischke, coauthors of Mastering 'Metrics The Path from Cause to Effect
What do you think is the book’s most important contribution?
We hope Mastering ‘Metrics will modernize the teaching of econometrics, making it more fun and relevant. Most students learn econometrics as a set of mathematical models and formal statistical assumptions that seem unrelated to the real world. Econometrics teaching has long been mired in a formalistic model-driven paradigm handed down from scholars working at the dawn of our discipline (mostly in the 1950s). Mastering ‘Metrics connects econometric methods with modern empirical practice through awesome examples … and a light humorous touch. We hope Mastering ‘Metrics will do for the Kung Fu TV and movie franchise what our earlier metrics book (Mostly Harmless Econometrics) did for Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers’ Guide series!
What is the biggest misunderstanding people have about what you do (anthropology, economics, etc.)
Many people think of economics as the study of financial markets (like the stock market) or dry questions related to abstract constructs like GDP. In reality, econometrics is both broader and more relevant to our daily lives than such preconceptions suggest. Mastering ‘Metrics’s many exciting and relevant examples in show this.
What was the best piece of advice you ever received?
I’m lucky to have gotten lots of good advice. When I was a grad student, my thesis advisers suggested I try to improve my writing, a piece of advice I’ve benefited from ever since.
What are you reading right now?
I often read non-fiction and fiction in parallel. At the top of my Kindle library this week: The Sense of Style by nonfiction’s grandmaster stylist, Stephen Pinker, and Sabbath’s Theater by Philip Roth. I never tire of Roth; he writes the fiction I would wish to if I had a talent for it.
Describe your writing process. How long did it take you to finish your book? Where do you write?
Steve and I signed the contract for Mastering ‘Metrics in October 2010. So about four years from conception to birth. But we did other things in that time as well; we must also attend to our day jobs of teaching and scholarship. Luckily our writing benefits from our teaching and research and vice versa.
Do you have advice for other authors?
I’m not the first to say this: Imagine your reader looking over your shoulder; focus on whether and how this imagined reader will understand your work.
What was the biggest challenge involved with bringing this book to life?
We cover some fairly technical ground, but wanted to limit formalism and mathematical notation. It’s incomparably harder to write an “easy” book than a “hard” one. Of course, this thought is also unoriginal.
How did you come up with the title or jacket?
Our students gave us the nickname ‘Metrics for the thing we do. We hope we’ve helped them master it.