Foreword

Thomas H Davenport

I am happy to see this book. Despite economics traditionally being the social science with perhaps the heaviest use of data, statistical analysis and equations, economics and public finance have not been at the forefront of the adoption of data science. A variety of reasons have been advanced for this: some argue that economists have tended to focus on official government data, while data scientists prefer data from consumer behaviour; others say that economists primarily focus on causality, while data scientists primarily care about accurate prediction. Or perhaps another key difference is that data scientists tend to use open source programming tools to analyse relatively unstructured data, whereas economists use statistical analysis software to analyse structured data.

Whatever the underlying reason, I have noticed the following straws in the wind suggesting a historical gap between these fields.

    • Data scientists are not terribly likely to have economics as their academic background; one study suggests that 13% have a degree in economics, but I suspect the numbers for post-doctoral degrees are smaller.

    • Data science was slow to develop a foothold in the

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