Saturday, March 26, 2016

Who was Shirley Almon?

How often have you said to yourself, "I wonder what happened to Jane X"? (Substitute any person's name you wish.)

Personally, I've noticed a positive correlation between my age and the frequency of occurrence of this event, but we all know that correlation doesn't imply causality.

Every now and then, over the years, I've wondered what happened to Shirley Almon, of the "Almon Distributed Lag Model" fame. Of course I should have gone to the internet for assistance, but somehow, I never did this - until the other day.......

I was thinking about the Almon distributed lag model for two reasons.

First, I was explaining to one of grad. students why the "Almon lag" appears as central idea in the formulation and estimation of MIDAS regression models. (See this related post.) Today's students don't seem to be aware of the Distributed Lag literature, of which Shirley' contribution was a major part. I discussed some of this in a previous post, here

In addition, I was looking back at an old paper of mine in preparation for a class in my course on Bayesian econometrics. In Giles (1977) I used Bayesian inference and Bayesian model averaging in an application that involved 12 competing Almon distributed lag models. We'll be discussing that paper in class this week. 

So, once again, Shirley Almon was on my mind. This time I decided to follow up properly, and I'm glad that I did.

In the back of my mind, I probably assumed that "Almon" may have been Shirley's maiden name, and that she subsequently married and took a change of name. This couldn't have been further from the truth, and the true story is is a far less happy one.

Shirley was born Shirley Ann Montag was born in Saxonbury, PA, in 1935. After completing her undergraduate degree in economics at Gucher College (Baltimore), she worked at the NBER in New York, the Federal Reserve Bank in San Francisco, and the Federal Reserve in Washington, DC, before marrying Clopper Almon Jr. in 1958.

She and her husband both entered the economics Ph.D. program at Harvard U. in 1959. Shirley Almon was awarded her Ph.D. from Harvard in 1964, and taught at Wellesley, Harvard, and U. Maryland. She was also served a term with the Council of Economic Advisers, in Washington, DC. 

Shirley Almon published just two academic papers (Almon, 1965, 1968). However, her overall  contributions to economic analysis and economic policy justifiably earned her entries in both A Biographical Dictionary of Women Economists, and Distinguished Women Economists.

Sadly, Shirley's life was cut short. She was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 1967, and died in 1975.

I'll be preparing a forthcoming post about the Almon distributed lag model and its estimation.


Almon, S., 1965. The distributed lag between capital appropriations and net expenditures. Econometrica, 33, 178-196.

Almon, S., 1968. Lags between investment decisions and their causes. Review of Economics and Statistics, 50, 193-206.

Cicarelli, J. and J. Cicarelli, 2003. Distinguished Women Economists. Greenwood Press, Westport, CT, 11-14.

Giles, D. E. A., 1977. Current payments for New Zealand's Imports: A Bayesian analysis. Applied Economics, 9, 185-201.

McDonough-Dumler, C., 2000. Shirley Ann Montag Almon. In, R. W. Dimand, M. A. Dimand, & E. L. Forget (eds.), A Biographical Dictionary of Women Economists. Edward Elgar, Nothampton, MA, 11-15.

© 2016, David E. Giles

1 comment:

  1. Hi Dave: Very interesting. Wow, she was 40. geez. Similarly Koyck doesn't get a lot of credit for a lot of the great stuff he did. Marc Nerlove built off it ( A LOT ) thank god and got it ( partial adjustment etc ) out there for economists and econometricians to know about.