Downloading Wisdom from Online Crowds

54 Pages Posted: 11 Nov 2008

See all articles by Albert Saiz

Albert Saiz

IZA Institute of Labor Economics; MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning

Uri Simonsohn

ESADE Business School; Ramon Llull University - ESADE Business School; ESADE Business School

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper


The internet and other large textual databases contain billions of documents: is there useful information in the number of documents written about different topics? We propose, based on the premise that the occurrence of a phenomenon increases the likelihood that people write about it, that the relative frequency of documents discussing a phenomenon can be used to proxy for the corresponding occurrence-frequency. After establishing the conditions under which such proxying is likely to be successful, we construct proxies for a number of demographic variables in the US and for corruption across countries and US states and cities, obtaining average correlations with occurrence-frequencies of 0.47 and 0.61 respectively. We also replicate results from two separate published papers establishing the correlates of corruption at both the state and country level. Finally, we construct the first index of corruption in US cities and study its correlates.

Keywords: proxy variables, document-frequency, textual databases, internet

JEL Classification: J11, C81, B40

Suggested Citation

Saiz, Albert and Saiz, Albert and Simonsohn, Uri, Downloading Wisdom from Online Crowds. IZA Discussion Paper No. 3809, Available at SSRN: or

Albert Saiz (Contact Author)

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072

MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
50 Memorial Drive
Cambridge, MA 02139-4307
United States
617-252-1687 (Phone)
617-258-6991 (Fax)

Uri Simonsohn

ESADE Business School ( email )

Av. de Pedralbes, 60-62
Barcelona, 08034

Ramon Llull University - ESADE Business School ( email )

Avinguda de la Torre Blanca, 59
Sant Cugat del Vallès, 08172


ESADE Business School ( email )

Av. de Pedralbes, 60-62
Barcelona, 08034

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics