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S3E3: Carlos Cinelli, Statistician, University of Washington
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S3E3: Carlos Cinelli, Statistician, University of Washington

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Philosophy of the Podcast

Welcome to the Mixtape with Scott, a podcast devoted to hearing the stories of living economists and a non-randomly selected oral history of the economics profession of the last 50 years. Before I introduce this week’s guest, I wanted to start off with a quote from a book I’m reading that explains the philosophy of the podcast.

“For the large m majority of people, hearing others’ stories enables them to see their own experiences in a new, truthful light. They realize — usually instantaneously — that a story another has told is their own story, only with different details. This realization seems to sneak past their defenses. There is something almost irresistible about another person’s facing and honoring the truth, without fanfare of any kind, but with courage and clarity and assurance. The other participants feel invited, even emboldened, to stand unflinching before the truth themselves. By opening ourselves even a little to the remarkable spectacle of other people reconsidering their lives, we begin to reconsider our own.” — Terry Warner, Bonds That Make Us Free

The purpose of the podcast is not to tell the story of living economists. The purpose of the podcast is to hear the stories of living economists as they themselves tell it. It is to make an effort to without judgment just pay attention to the life lived of another person and not make them some non-playable character in the video game of our life. To immature people, others are not real, and the purpose of the podcast is, if for no one else, to listen to people so that they become real, and in that process of listening, for me to be changed.

They may sound heavy or it may sound even a little silly. After all, isn’t this first and foremost a conversation between two economists? But economists are people first, and the thing I just said is for people. And let’s be frank — aren’t man of us feeling, at least some of the time, alone in our work? And isn’t, at least some of the time, the case that our work is all consuming? I think there are people in my family who still don’t understand what my job is as a professor at a university, let alone what my actual research is about. There are colleagues like that too. Many of us are in departments where we may be the only ones in our field, and many of us are studying topics where our networks are thin. And so loneliness is very common. It is common for professors, it is common for students, it is common for people in industry, it is common for people non-profits and it is common for people in government. It is common for people in between jobs. And while the purpose of the podcast is not to alleviate loneliness, as that most likely is only something a person can do for themselves, the purpose is to share in the stories of other people on the hypothesis that that is a gift we give those whose stories we listen to, but it’s also maybe moreso the gift we give the deepest part of ourselves.

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Carlos Cinelli, PhD Statistics, University of Washington’s Statistics Department

So, with that said, let me introduce this week’s guest. Carlos Cinelli may seem like a guest who does not quite fit, but his is the story of the economics profession in a couple of ways. First, he is someone who left economics. Carlos was an undergraduate major in economics who then did a masters in economics and after doing so left economics (and econometrics) to become a statistician. The leaving of economics is not the road less traveled. By talking to Carlos, and hearing his story, the hope is that the survivor bias of the podcast guests might be weakened if only a tad bit.

But Carlos also fits into one of the broader themes of the podcast which is causal inference. Carlos studied at UCLA under two notable figures in the history of econometrics and causal inference: Ed Leamer in the economics department and Judea Pearl in the computer science department. And Carlos is now an assistant professor at University of Washington in the statistics department whose work consistently moved into domains of relevance in economics, such as his work in the linear of econometric theory and practice by Chris Taber, Emily Oster and others. That work is important and concerns sensitivity analysis with omitted variable bias. And he has also written an excellent paper with Judea Pearl and Andrew Forney detailing precisely the kinds of covariates we should be contemplating when trying to address the claims of unconfoundedness.

So without further ado, I will turn it over to Carlos. Thank you again for your support of the podcast. Please like, share and follow!

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Scott's Substack
The Mixtape with Scott
The Mixtape with Scott is a podcast in which economist and professor, Scott Cunningham, interviews economists, scientists and authors about their lives and careers, as well as the some of their work. He tries to travel back in time with his guests to listen and hear their stories before then talking with them about topics they care about now.