2016 Hes presidential address: Statistical inference in economics, 1920-1965: Changes in meaning and practice

    Research output: Research - peer-reviewReview article

    Abstract

    I review changes over time in the meaning that economists in the US attributed to the phrase statistical inference, as well as changes in how inference was conducted. Prior to WWII, leading statistical economists rejected probability theory as a source of measures and procedures to be used in statistical inference. Trygve Haavelmo and the early Cowles Commission econometricians developed an approach to statistical inference based on probability theory, but the arguments they offered in defense of this approach were not always responsive to the concerns of earlier empirical economists that the data available to economists did not satisfy the assumptions required for such an approach. Despite this, after a period of about twenty-five years, a consensus developed that methods of inference derived from probability theory were an almost essential part of empirical research in economics. I conclude with some speculation on possible reasons for this transformation in thinking about statistical inference.

    LanguageEnglish (US)
    Pages149-173
    Number of pages25
    JournalJournal of the History of Economic Thought
    Volume39
    Issue number2
    DOIs
    StatePublished - Jun 1 2017

    Profile

    Presidential Address
    Economics
    Economists
    Statistical Inference
    Statistical inference
    Probability Theory
    Probability theory
    Inference
    Empirical Research
    Speculation
    Second World War
    Empirical research

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Arts and Humanities(all)
    • Economics, Econometrics and Finance(all)
    • History and Philosophy of Science

    Cite this

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    abstract = "I review changes over time in the meaning that economists in the US attributed to the phrase statistical inference, as well as changes in how inference was conducted. Prior to WWII, leading statistical economists rejected probability theory as a source of measures and procedures to be used in statistical inference. Trygve Haavelmo and the early Cowles Commission econometricians developed an approach to statistical inference based on probability theory, but the arguments they offered in defense of this approach were not always responsive to the concerns of earlier empirical economists that the data available to economists did not satisfy the assumptions required for such an approach. Despite this, after a period of about twenty-five years, a consensus developed that methods of inference derived from probability theory were an almost essential part of empirical research in economics. I conclude with some speculation on possible reasons for this transformation in thinking about statistical inference.",
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