Sidebar Publishes Essay on the Reference Class Problem
Columbia Law Review‘s Sidebar is pleased to announce the publication of Law, Statistics, and the Reference Class Problem, by Professor Edward Cheng of Brooklyn Law School.
In this Preview of his forthcoming Essay, Professor Cheng introduces the reference class problem. The reference class problem is the problem of how to define the appropriate class to compare a specific case to. For example, when estimating the value of a house one typically looks at comparable houses: But which attributes do we use to determine which houses are comparable to the house we are trying to value? Square feet? Lot size? Number of bedrooms? The class we choose will effect the valuation of our house. In a legal context, different parties may choose different reference classes in order to advance their case and the decisionmaker will have to determine which one is better. As Professor Cheng notes, to date this decision has been largely made on intuition; however, he proposes a more principled method for choosing one over the other.