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

Research output: Contribution to journalReview 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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title = "2016 Hes presidential address: Statistical inference in economics, 1920-1965: Changes in meaning and practice",
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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