Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Decline and Fall of Econometrics?

"Please bear in mind throughout that IT IS MEANT TO BE FUNNY."
(Evelyn Waugh, 'Author's Note' in Decline and Fall, 1st ed., 1928)

I'm not sure that there's anything funny about the decline and fall of Econometrics, especially if you're an econometrician - that's if it were true, of course. But is it? Personally I don't think so.

Econometricians seem to be very much in demand. To take one example, if you take a look at the EconJobMarket site right now you'll see that over the past 6 months, and also in total since that site began, more jobs have been posted in the Econometrics category than in any other economics category (except for "Any Field").

BTW, don't be put off by the fact that there don't seem to have been very many jobs posted at all in the past 6 months - that period doesn't cover the annual recruitment season job posts. With that recruitment season  in mind, if you look back at last October's issue of JOE, you'll find that there were over 130 job postings in the "Mathematical & Quantitative Methods" (which is primarily Econometrics)category.

It will be interesting to see how the job numbers for econometricians stack up in JOE after this summer's break.

Imagine my alarm, then, when I obtained this chart while playing around the other day with Google Trends:

Here are the details of the "highlight" events.

The "econometrics" variable is in the form of an index (to facilitate comparisons with other variables) whose trend you might use for comparisons - e.g., if comparing search volumes for "econometrics" and "tooth fairy". 

What on earth is going on here?

It's difficult to even contemplate the possibility, but I guess there could have been a steady decline in interest in finding out about Econometrics over recent years. NO - let's not even go there! What, then, might be the explanation for the chart?

Perhaps we've done such a good job in making known the merits of our discipline that folks out there don't need to Google us as much because they've become better and better informed over time. That must be it! And that seasonal "dip" at the end of each year? That must be everyone taking time away from Googling while they celebrate the holidays. (It probably is just that - Google Trend almost anything and you see this seasonal effect, apart from any others.)

Google Trends allows you to download all of the data they used to make both the chart, and any regional summaries they provide. The data make interesting "reading", and they're on the Data page for this blog. For example, it transpires that the volume of searches for "econometrics" originating in Pakistan is roughly double that for searches originating in South Korea; and roughly five time that for searches originating in Australia.

Interestingly, Australia is one country that has a history of having Departments of Econometrics (separate from Departments of Economics) in many of its major universities. With Econometrics as part of the "culture", perhaps people don't need to search - they already know all about it! I'd like to thnk so.

When we look at individual cities, internationally, the search volume originating in Washington D.C. is double that originating in the Australian cities of Melbourne or Sydney. This might lend some support to my last conjecture.

This definitely warrants further attention. Meantime, I'm off to Google Trend some of the terms that are associated with the most popular posts on this blog - notably "How Many Weeks in a Year"!

© 2011, David E. Giles


  1. You might want to try changing econometrics to econometric. The results are a bit different, although you still get the seasonal dip you mentioned. a possible (though imperfect) way to confirm that this dip is indeed seasonal, try putting in "econometrics, kindle" without the quotes but with the comma. the search term kindle dominates econometrics. also try the search term RCT with econometrics given the recent surge in interest on randomized experiments. of course, google trends may give some indication of the relative newsworthiness of certain topics. for instance, try freakonomics along with econometrics as search term.

  2. Thanks Andrew - great suggestions!