Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Including More History in Your Econometrics Teaching

If you follow this blog (or if you look at the "History of Econometrics" label in the word cloud in the right side-bar), you'll know that I have more than a passing interest in the history of our discipline. There's so much to be learned from this history. Among other things, we can gain insights into why certain methods became popular, and we can reduce the risk of repeating earlier mistakes!

When I was teaching I liked to inject a few historical facts/anecdotes/curiosities into my classes. I think that this brought the subject matter to life a little. The names behind the various theorems, tests, and estimators are those of real people, after all.

There are some excellent books on the history of econometrics, including those by Epstein (1987), Morgan (1990), and De Marchi and Gilbert (1991). (Also, see the short piece by Stephen Pollock, 2014.)

However, I think that we could do more in terms of making material about this history accessible to our students.

The Statistics community has gone much further in this direction, and we might take note of this.

The other day, Amanda Golbeck posted some very helpful links on the American Statistical Association's "History of Statistics Interest Group" community noticeboard.

Here's her posting in its entirety - and don't miss the first of her links:

"Why not include more history in your teaching? The History of Statistics Interest Group library has a collection of Activities for Classes: community.amstat.org/historyofstats/ourlibrary/...

We are pleased to let you know that Bob Rosenfeld has created 13 history of probability and statistics teaching modules, and he has kindly made them available for you to use in your classes! We hope you will find them to be useful.

Reading and Exercises on the History of Probability from the Vermont Mathematics Initiative, Bob Rosenfeld
Reading and Exercises on the History of Statistics from the Vermont Mathematics Initiative, Bob Rosenfeld
(Bob Rosenfeld was former Co-Director for Statistics and School-Based Research at the Vermont Mathenatics initiative, and the author of a number of books on the teaching of statistics to K-8 students. D.G.)

Most of Bob Rosenfeld's pieces are directly relevant to econometrics students. It would be nice to see more material about the history of our discipline that could be incorporated into introductory econometrics courses.


De Marchi, N. & C. Gilbert, 1990. History and Methodology of Econometrics. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Epstein, R. J. 1987. A History of Econometrics. North-Holland, Amsterdam.

Morgan, M. S., 1991. The History of Econometric Ideas. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Pollock, D. S. G., 2014. Econometrics - An historical guide for the uninitiated. Working Paper No. 14/05, Department of economics, University of Leicester.

© 2019, David E. Giles


  1. Colin Read's "The Econometricians" is also an interesting book on the history of econometrics

    1. Thanks for this. The Amazon link is