This course is taught as part of the specialization in “Political Behavior and Applied Quantitative Methods” and as an elective. There is no difference in the course if you are in the specialization or take the course as an elective.
The course provides a broad overview of quantitative methods as they are commonly used in political science. Its primary focus is on methods for causal inference (experiments, instrumental variables, difference-in-differences, and regression discontinuity), and their application in the statistical software R.
The course will examine some of the best-known recent work on political behavior, and ask: How did the authors produce their results? Can we re-produce them? How plausible are the assumptions for causal inference? And how sensitive are the results to different methodological choices? The course will place particular emphasis on students’ ability to apply the methods introduced to real-world data.
The course revolves around two sections, as described below.
1. Statistical programming in R
The first classes introduce the statistical programming language R, the most widely used statistical software among political scientists who use advanced quantitative methods. Like Python, R’s data science counterpart, R is also widely used in government and the private sector for data analysis. For applied academic, government, and private-sector research, knowing R (and Python) will likely be the most valuable technical tools that you learn from your time in university. Accordingly, you will use R in every class throughout the term. You will learn R in class, and through exercises on DataCamp, an intuitive platform for learning a variety of statistical programming languages and methods.
The first section of the course will also re-introduce linear regression analysis (OLS), which you should be familiar with from your undergraduate methods sequence. Finally, the course will introduce you to LaTeX, a type-setting system used by the majority of researchers who do advanced quantitative research in political science. LaTeX should be very useful to you when you write your assignments and, later, your Master’s thesis.
2. Causal inference
The second section of the course will focus on causal inference, and recent methods developed for estimating causal effects. The social sciences (particularly economics and political science) have underwent a “credibility revolution” in the late 2000s, which places methods for estimating causal effects at the center of research designs. This is because theoretically driven empirical research often centers on causal questions. As a result, much of the course will emphasize how to think about causality, and the statistical techniques for causal inference.
AQM (elective): CSS 2-0-30 on Thursdays from 8.00-10.00
AQM (pol. behavior): CSS 2-2-18 on Thursdays from 15.00-17.00
Office hours & e-mail
It is far easier and less time-consuming for me to help you with coding problems in person rather than over email. E-mails should therefore primarily be used to ask very short questions and to coordinate meetings.
Office hours: Fridays 14-16 (by scheduled meeting)
Schedule a meeting
Two texts will be used in the course and can be purchased from Academic Books:
Mastering ‘Metrics: The Path from Cause to Effect
Princeton University Press, 2014.
Joshua D. Angrist and Jörn-Steffen Pischke
Field Experiments: Design, Analysis, and Interpretation
W. W. Norton & Company, 2012.
Alan S. Gerber and Donald P. Green.
The following book is a nice (free) supplement to the two above. It is not a substitute for the books above, however: all of the required readings are from the two books above.
- Causal Inference: The Mixtape
Yale University Press, 2021.
The course is graded using a portfolio exam that will consist of two mandatory assignments. The first assignment will be due mid-way through the course; the final assignment, after our final class.