Population and Sample Uncertainty

44 Pages Posted: 17 Jun 2013

See all articles by Thomas Pluemper

Thomas Pluemper

Vienna University of Economics and Business - Department of Socioeconomics; University of Essex - Department of Government

Eric Neumayer

London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)

Date Written: 2012

Abstract

Causal inference seeks to identify a causal mechanism and the set of cases for which the causal claim makes sense. It is always based on a specific sample analyzed. However, whether results can be reliably generalized to the population depends on whether the sample represents a true random draw from the population. In principle, the population can be deductively derived as the set of cases for which a theory claims validity or inductively derived as the set of cases for which the studied sample could have represented a random draw. However, researchers are typically uncertain about what constitutes the relevant population for testing their hypotheses as well as uncertain about what population their studied sample might represent. Both uncertainties render the underlying assumption of econometrics – that one studies a random draw from the population – fictional. We explore the principal sources of population and sample uncertainty and discuss the inferential threats they pose. We suggest tests for probing the robustness of inferences toward population and sample uncertainty, illustrating our suggestions with an example from the study of civil war onset.

Suggested Citation

Plümper, Thomas and Neumayer, Eric, Population and Sample Uncertainty (2012). EPSA 2013 Annual General Conference Paper 166. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2224688

Thomas Plümper (Contact Author)

Vienna University of Economics and Business - Department of Socioeconomics ( email )

Vienna
Austria

University of Essex - Department of Government ( email )

Wivenhoe Park
Colchester, Essex CO4 3SQ
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://www.polsci.org/pluemper

Eric Neumayer

London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) ( email )

Houghton Street
London, WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom
+44 207 955 7598 (Phone)
+44 207 955 7412 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://personal.lse.ac.uk/neumayer

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