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Vanderbilt University Law School

2009

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A Practical Solution To The Reference Class Problem, Edward K. Cheng Jan 2009

A Practical Solution To The Reference Class Problem, Edward K. Cheng

Vanderbilt Law School Faculty Publications

The "reference class problem" is a serious challenge to the use of statistical evidence that arguably arises every day in wide variety of cases, including toxic torts, property valuation, and even drug smuggling. At its core, it observes that statistical inferences depend critically on how people, events, or things are classified. As there is (purportedly) no principle for privileging certain categories over others, statistics become manipulable, undermining the very objectivity and certainty that make statistical evidence valuable and attractive to legal actors. In this paper, I propose a practical solution to the reference class problem by drawing on model selection ...