Civil Rights Response 122 Harv. L. Rev. F. 1

Not All Statistics Are Created Equal

Reply to Steven L. Willborn and Romana L. Paetzold, Statistics is a Plural Word, 122 Harv. L. Rev. F. 48 (2009)

Response To:


In Statistics Is a Plural Word, a response to my article Causal Inference in Civil Rights Litigation, Dean Steven Willborn and Professor Ramona Paetzold take issue both with my critique of regression as it is currently used in civil rights litigation and with my advocacy of the potential outcomes framework. In this Reply, I argue that Dean Willborn and Professor Paetzold’s response does not address (and thus cannot refute) the central lessons of Causal Inference, despite purporting to agree with those lessons. In particular, after “agree[ing] wholeheartedly” that a definition of a causal effect is necessary for the use of statistics in civil rights, Plural does not offer a definition. In the absence of such a definition, the purpose of statistics in civil rights litigation is unclear. The potential outcomes framework, in contrast, provides the needed definition and clarifies many subsidiary concepts, with salutary consequences following naturally from a start in the right place.