New Book by Yale Professor Gives Easy Lessons for Predicting Many Things

In his new book, “Predicting Presidential Elections and Other Things” (Stanford University Press), Yale economist Ray C. Fair teaches the basics of social science methodology and provides ways to apply the lessons-from forecasting election outcomes and inflation rates to appraising the quality of a vintage wine.

Though Fair doesn’t use “econometrics” in the title of his book, “econometrics for fun” captures its spirit. Indeed, someone with no interest in economics, still less econometrics, will find this book intriguing for the way Fair applies theory and statistics to matters of everyday life. Fair’s step-by-step tutorial on the seven basic tools of his trade goes down easily for the reader who will see how to use them to predict a marathon runner’s speed or foretell a final course grade from the number of classes a student has skipped.

Fair also has a larger purpose in arming the public with instruments of social science. In the introduction he writes, “Knowledge of social science procedures allows a more critical reading of opinions and predictions that we are bombarded with every day. …The problem of evaluating views is harder than ever now that we are in the Internet age. Information is available at the click of a mouse, and views can be backed up by vast amounts of information. But is the information good?”

By translating “econometrics” into the vernacular, Fair empowers his readers to judge the validity of information. Ultimately, this knowledge can make the difference between making informed choices and being manipulated.

Known for the model he devised for predicting presidential elections, Fair is a highly respected scholar with many publications to his credit, including a widely used economics text book. Fair earned his doctorate at MIT, and before joining the Yale faculty in 1974, he taught at Princeton.

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