### 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.

Original language | English (US) |
---|---|

Pages (from-to) | 149-173 |

Number of pages | 25 |

Journal | Journal of the History of Economic Thought |

Volume | 39 |

Issue number | 2 |

DOIs | |

State | Published - Jun 1 2017 |

### Profile

### ASJC Scopus subject areas

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

### Cite this

**2016 Hes presidential address : Statistical inference in economics, 1920-1965: Changes in meaning and practice.** / Biddle, Jeff.

Research output: Contribution to journal › Review article

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TY - JOUR

T1 - 2016 Hes presidential address

T2 - Journal of the History of Economic Thought

AU - Biddle,Jeff

PY - 2017/6/1

Y1 - 2017/6/1

N2 - 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.

AB - 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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U2 - 10.1017/S1053837216001164

DO - 10.1017/S1053837216001164

M3 - Review article

VL - 39

SP - 149

EP - 173

JO - Journal of the History of Economic Thought

JF - Journal of the History of Economic Thought

SN - 1053-8372

IS - 2

ER -