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Prediction is an underused tool in the social sciences, often for the wrong reasons. Many social scientists confuse prediction with unnecessarily complicated methods or with narrowly predicting the future. This is unfortunate. When we view prediction as the simple process of evaluating a model’s ability to approximate an outcome of interest, it becomes a more generally applicable and disarmingly simple technique. For all its simplicity, the value of prediction should not be underestimated. Prediction can address enduring sources of criticism plaguing the social sciences, like a lack of assessing a model’s ability to reflect the real world, or the use of overly simplistic models to capture social life. The author illustrates these benefits with empirical examples that merely skim the surface of the many and varied ways in which prediction can be applied, staking the claim that prediction is a truly illustrious “free lunch” that can greatly benefit social scientists in their empirical work.

Original publication




Journal article


Socius: Sociological Research for a Dynamic World


SAGE Publications

Publication Date





237802312210817 - 237802312210817