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Definition: A finding in economics may be said to be of economic significance (or substantive significance) if it shows a theory to be useful or not useful, or if has implications for scientific interpretation or policy practice (McCloskey and Ziliak, 1996). Statistical significance is property of the probability that a given finding was produced by a stated model but at random: see significance level.

These meanings are different but sometimes overlap. McCloskey and Ziliak (1996) have a substantial discussion of them. Ambiguity is common in practice, but not hard to avoid. (Editorial comment follows.) When the second meaning is intended, use the phrase "statistically significant" and refer to a level of statistical significance or a p-value. Avoid the aggressive word "insignificant" unless it is clear whether the word is to be taken to mean substantively insignificant or not statistically significant.


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