Specification Curve: Descriptive and Inferential Statistics on All Reasonable Specifications

29 Pages Posted: 25 Nov 2015 Last revised: 7 Nov 2019

See all articles by Uri Simonsohn

Uri Simonsohn

Ramon Llull University - ESADE Business School

Joseph P. Simmons

University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School

Leif D. Nelson

University of California, Berkeley - Haas School of Business

Date Written: October 29, 2019

Abstract

Empirical results often hinge on data analytic decisions that are simultaneously defensible, arbitrary, and motivated. To mitigate this problem we introduce Specification-Curve Analysis, which consists of three steps: (i) identifying the set of theoretically justified, statistically valid, and non-redundant analytic specifications, (ii) displaying alternative results graphically, allowing the identification of decisions producing different results, and (iii) conducting statistical tests to determine whether as a whole results are inconsistent with the null hypothesis. We illustrate its use by applying it to three published findings. One proves robust, one weak, one not robust at all.

Keywords: Specification Curve; p-hacking

Suggested Citation

Simonsohn, Uri and Simmons, Joseph P. and Nelson, Leif D., Specification Curve: Descriptive and Inferential Statistics on All Reasonable Specifications (October 29, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2694998 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2694998

Uri Simonsohn (Contact Author)

Ramon Llull University - ESADE Business School ( email )

Avinguda de la Torre Blanca, 59
Sant Cugat del Vall├Ęs, 08172
Spain

HOME PAGE: http://urisohn.com

Joseph P. Simmons

University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School ( email )

3733 Spruce Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6374
United States

Leif D. Nelson

University of California, Berkeley - Haas School of Business ( email )

545 Student Services Building, #1900
2220 Piedmont Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

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