Tag Archives: Econometrics

Sargent on Calibration

Thomas Sargent and his wife Carolyn at Santorini, Greece.

“Calibration is less optimistic about what your theory can accomplish because you’d only use it if you didn’t fully trust your entire model, meaning that you think your model is partly misspecified or incompletely specified, or if you trusted someone else’s model and data set more than your own. My recollection is that Bob Lucas and Ed Prescott were initially very enthusiastic about rational expectations econometrics. After all, it simply involved imposing on ourselves the same high standards we had criticized the Keynesians for failing to live up to. But after about five years of doing likelihood ratio tests on rational expectations models, I recall Bob Lucas and Ed Prescott both telling me that those tests were rejecting too many good models. The idea of calibration is to ignore some of the probabilistic implications of your model but to retain others. Somehow, calibration was intended as a balanced response to professing that your model, though not correct, is still worthy as a vehicle for quantitative policy analysis.”

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“Economics department abandoned econometrics because it was rejecting its models”!

Paul Krugman writes:

OK, several correspondents have weighed in on the story I’d heard about the economics department that abandoned econometrics because it was rejecting its models. It wasn’t quite as alleged, but close enough.

The department in question was the University of Minnesota. For those readers new to this discussion, “freshwater-saltwater” was a distinction originally due to Bob Hall, who noted that the economics departments that had rejected Keynes and anything reminiscent of Keynes were inland schools like Minnesota, Chicago, and Rochester, whereas the places that retained a belief in the usefulness of monetary and fiscal policy were places like MIT, Princeton, and Berkeley.

So the story as I now have it was that there was harsh conflict between the macroeconomic theorists at UMinn, especially Prescott, and the econometricians who had the nasty habit of showing that those models didn’t work. And for at least some period econometrics was dropped as a required course for the Ph.D. — I don’t know whether it has been restored.

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