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The SGPE blog has moved

January 29, 2012

The course blog for the Scottish Graduate Programme in Economics has moved to


Spurious regressions

May 27, 2011

I saw saw this one-pager on spurious regressions and I thought some of you might appreciate it.

My favourite is the first one:

Regression: Egyptian infant mortality rate (Y), 1971-1990, annual data, on Gross aggregate income of American farmers (I) and Total Honduran money supply (M)

Result:  R-squared = .918

“The sexy job in the next ten years will be statisticians”

May 13, 2011

I keep saying the sexy job in the next ten years will be statisticians. People think I’m joking, but who would’ve guessed that computer engineers would’ve been the sexy job of the 1990s?

–Hal Varian [Google’s chief economist and author of your textbook], The McKinsey Quarterly, January 2009

McKinsey seems to have taken this point to heart, and they’ve got a new report titled “Big Data: The Next Frontier for Innovation, Competition and Productivity”, profiled here by the New York Times.

…the study also identifies challenges. One hurdle is a talent and skills gap. The United States alone, McKinsey projects, will need 140,000 to 190,000 more people with “deep analytical” skills, typically experts in statistical methods and data-analysis technologies.

McKinsey says the nation will also need 1.5 million more data-literate managers, whether retrained or hired. The report points to the need for a sweeping change in business to adapt a new way of managing and making decisions that relies more on data analysis. Managers, according to the McKinsey researchers, must grasp the principles of data analytics and be able to ask the right questions.

This should make you feel better about studying QM. If the MSc teaches you anything, it’s how to think quantitatively, and that’s a skill that will be increasingly valuable in the years to come. To quote Hal Varian again (thinking like an economist and a statistician):

now we really do have essentially free and ubiquitous data. So the complimentary scarce factor is the ability to understand that data and extract value from it.

Mankiw’s Ten Principles

April 27, 2011

Greg Mankiw’s Principles textbook has an opening chapter which tries to distill  economics down to ten principles. Since some of you may need to perform a similar task at a job interview at some point, I offer them to you for contemplation. Hopefully you’ll find that they map reasonably well onto what we’ve covered in the SGPE (but with much much more calculus).

  1. People face trade-offs
  2. The cost of something is what you give up to get it
  3. Rational people think at the margin
  4. People respond to incentives
  5. Trade can make everyone better off
  6. Markets are normally a good way to organise economic activity
  7. Governments can sometimes improve market outcomes
  8. A country’s standard of living depends on its ability to produce goods and services
  9. Prices rise when the government prints too much money
  10. Society faces a short-run trade-off between inflation and unemployment

And if you prefer, you can have the principles in rap form, or in translation.

Thor on Sat 30th, 8pm, @ Dominion (£5)

April 26, 2011

It’s been a while, so we’re going to see Thor on Saturday (it’s got a surprisingly high 94% at Rotten Tomatoes as I write this).

We’ll get the 8pm show on Saturday at Dominion Cinema.

As before, you can get subsidised £5 tickets if you leave a comment below saying that you want one (full price is £7.90). Please comment by Friday, since that’s when I’ll buy the tickets.

Please leave one comment for each ticket you want.

Last Chance for QM1 Review Tutorial Suggestions…

April 8, 2011

I am getting ready to set material for the review tutorial to cover QM from Robin and pre-Time Series Hassan.  Last chance to make content requests…

Topic bleg: Micro 1

April 4, 2011

We’ll be holding tutorials on Micro 1 shortly. Please comment below with specific questions and/or topics that you would like to see covered.

(note: John will be going over the Micro 2 stuff with you separately, so there’s no point mentioning it here)