Scott’s Substack

Scott’s Substack is a weekly newsletter featuring explainer essays about causal inference, example code, other writings entitled Hatful of Hollow, and podcast episodes (both video and audio).  It is written by me, Scott Cunningham, a professor and economist at Baylor University and author of Causal Inference: the Mixtape, a popular book on quantitative methods in the social sciences. 

Scott’s Substack is a place where I write essays telling people about things I’m passionate about be it causal inference, mental health or drug policy. I try to help people become more comfortable with developments in econometrics and causal inference using plain language, example code that implement the estimators, figures and table output based on analyzing real and simulated data, as well as sharing the stories of economists and other scientists through interviews on my podcast, The Mixtape with Scott.

I love these topics but what I really love is connecting with people around and through these topics. I believe in love, friendship, community and acceptance. I strive for oneness. And while it maybe doesn’t make sense to someone else, I try to do these things in explaining causal inference and telling peoples stories.

I guess it’s partly something I imagined I saw in Mr. Rogers. Living with others in the neighborhood, being present with the other person. I have long since adopted those values. These are a belief that in communion and friendship we find each others but also ourselves. I think many people need connection with others. Lacking community, mentorship and social support, many of us work in jobs that both excite and drain us. We fight against imposter syndrome, stress of performance in our job, ambition and workaholism.  The love of our jobs can be pure and yet we still end up with distorted beliefs about ourselves and our lives.  My driving ambition is to serve as a bridge between data workers by explaining topics they need for their own personal and professional success.

This blending of personal and professional, teaching and community, are things many people have come to expect or at least understand from interacting with me on social media, in person, and in my book, Causal Inference: the Mixtape. I have a unique approach to these topics, not so much as an authority, so much as an inquisitive person who sees himself as on his own journey in personal and professional growth as well as a felt desire to give back to the community as best I can.  If you are interested in some of my work, check out my website www.scunning.com.

Often, the essays I post on here are born from a desire to stitch together the material I want to include in my next edition of my book on causal inference. In the past this has been a substantial amount of explainer essays on difference-in-differences, a topic I have tried hard to lift out of the technical and into the practical through workshops (like CodeChella in summer 2021 which drew 1500 participants), Twitter threads, code, and essays on the substack. Going forward I am hoping to continue building out ideas I have for the second edition such as covering in greater detail instrumental variables, synthetic and other areas I’m interested in.

But I have many interests, which is why I find the word “mixtape” apt. Mixtapes as I have written are curated songs recorded onto both sides of a cassette tape and given to friends. Sometimes the things on them fit together but only in the mind of the person creating them, and this substack is no different. So in addition to my writings, I have started a podcast.  The goal isn’t so different from what my goals have always been – to create community by helping connect people. I do this by talking to people who I want to know better, listening to their stories, and simply being present, curious and genuine. I will always maintain that we are social creatures who use stories to navigate our historical lives and that weirdly enough sometimes it is in hearing the very specific stories of very specific people that we hear our own stories, or if not at least a little less alone. At least that is the hope. So my podcast is about that but I group the interviews around topics I personally am interested in.  So I have mixtape series on things like “Causal Inference”, “Economists in Tech”, “Oral History of Psychedelic Medication, Science and Reform”, “Becker’s students”, and more. I release these interviews weekly.

Taking time to produce the explainers as well as conduct the interviews requires the scarce input of time, effort and creativity. I do it because I love doing it.  I do it because I want to be useful to others. But it is costly and in order to do this project well, support is appreciated.


Scott's Substack is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.


Scott’s Substack, just like Causal Inference: the Mixtape, is partly free.  For a year and a half I refused to turn on subscriptions or allow donations, despite many requests.  I had my own reasons. It was important to me that I could find a way to give away things.  So I started it as a free newsletter and I want very much to keep it that way.  People come to the newsletter from all over the world with many different backgrounds and ability or willingness to pay, and if you feel like you just aren’t able or interested in paying, no worries.  The free option is for you.

But the fact of the matter is that the econometric explainer essays take a lot of time, study, tearing the articles down and building back up again.  The interviews involve monthly subscriptions and payments to a producer who handles all the editing.  I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t love it and I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t think that other people would love hearing from these interesting people.  So if you can afford to, and you think what I’m doing is valuable, and you would like to support this project, I’ve set the monthly subscription to the smallest amount they allow on here ($5). And if that’s cool with you, please click here:

There are three options:

1.     The annual subscription: $50 annually

2.     The standard monthly subscription: $5 monthly - which gives you a bit more flexibility.

3.     Founders club:$ 150 annually, or another amount at your discretion - for those who really love what I’m doing, or read it in a professional setting in which you regularly pay for pricey subscriptions.

But I’m an economist. If I didn’t believe in rational choice, they’d take away my union card. I know people pay $5 a month in expectation of $5 worth of marginal value, so what is it you get from me for that? Well, become a paid subscriber and you get full access to the newsletter.  But you also get subscriber perks like:

  1. Exclusive interview content

  2. Participation in the community, like the ability to comment

  3. Questions you want me to try to answer – either in essay form or if really interesting an actual mixtape series for the podcast

  4. Non-explainer essays. These cover anything and everything. Buyer beware.

  5. Most importantly you’re supporting my writing and interviewing so that it won’t go away

The last point is simply the facts. Labor supply curves slope upward at the margin. The reality of this project is that discontinuing it is easy to justify because it takes time away from other important activities, such as leisure and time with friends and family.  It can exist insofar as I can justify the time use to myself and others.  I am though very excited by this project. I am as many know doggedly committed to community building within and across social scientists, young and old, academic or not. I desire to help build community here and hope you can become a part of that with me.

If you would like to join this community, please click below.

Scott's Substack is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.

If you would like to contact me, please email to causalinf@substack.com. Or you can do so by way of the contact page on my personal website. To do so, click here. 

Fulfillment policy: for the terms of refund, cancellation etc please check Substack's refund policy page as well as Substack's Terms of Use.