The Law of Genius and Home Runs Refuted

14 Pages Posted: 26 Jan 2010

See all articles by John E. DiNardo

John E. DiNardo

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Jason A. Winfree

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor

Abstract

In a lively, provocative article, DeVany claims inter alia that the size distribution of home runs follows a continuous “power law” distribution which is nested in a larger class of “stable” statistical distributions characterized by an infinite variance. He uses this putative fact about the size distribution of home runs to argue that concern about the use of steroids to enhance home run ability is necessarily misplaced. In this article, we show that the initial claim is false and argue that the subsequent claim about the potential importance of steroid use does not follow from the first. We also show that the method used to establish that the size distribution of home runs is characterized by an infinite variance is unreliable and will find evidence “consistent” with infinite variance in all but the most trivial of data sets generated by processes with finite variance. Despite a large and growing literature that spans several fields and uses methods and arguments similar to DeVany’s, we argue that mere inspection of the unconditional distribution of some human phenomenon is unlikely to yield much insight. (JEL C16, L83)

Suggested Citation

DiNardo, John and Winfree, Jason A., The Law of Genius and Home Runs Refuted. Economic Inquiry, Vol. 48, No. 1, pp. 51-64, January 2010. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1542275 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1465-7295.2008.00176.x

John DiNardo (Contact Author)

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy ( email )

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HOME PAGE: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~jdinardo/

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Jason A. Winfree

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor ( email )

500 S. State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States
+1 734 647 5424 (Phone)

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