Probability, Causality and Stochastic Formulations of Economic Theory

31 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 2019

See all articles by Bo Pieter Johannes Andree

Bo Pieter Johannes Andree

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, School of Business and Economics; World Bank; Tinbergen Institute

Date Written: July 18, 2019


The current paper discusses approximating a correct theory of cause and effect by minimizing distance to its associated probability measure in a space of measures in which each element is associated with a stochastic representation of a candidate theory. The discussion encourages researchers to use flexible dynamical models to model and discover the true quantitative relationships that may be hidden in interrelated stochastic data. The argument is based on the use of a decision criterion that scales to a metric that measures distance between any given measure. When this is the case, a metric space can be considered in which equivalences can be established by partitioning into classes of zero-distance points. Equivalence to the true measure, that is associated with the true frequencies in Markov chains of iterated causes and effects, is established by reaching zero distance in that space. When the hypothesis space is incorrectly constructed, equivalence is established with respect to a pseudo-true measure that by definition is closest to the correct hypothesis across all considered hypotheses. The specific case of Maximum Likelihood is further discussed. In particular, squared Hellinger distance marks a lower bound of Kullback-Leibler divergence. This implies that maximizing complexity penalized likelihood minimizes distance toward the true probability measure. As such, it is an objective that approximates the correct causal structure from interrelated stochastic data that are observed and modeled sequentially over time.

Keywords: Causality, Approximation Theory, Hellinger Distance, Kullback-Leibler divergence, Correct specification, Miss-specified models

JEL Classification: B00, C01

Suggested Citation

Andree, Bo Pieter Johannes, Probability, Causality and Stochastic Formulations of Economic Theory (July 18, 2019). Available at SSRN: or

Bo Pieter Johannes Andree (Contact Author)

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, School of Business and Economics ( email )

De Boelelaan 1105
Amsterdam, 1081HV

World Bank ( email )

1818 H Street, NW
Washington, DC 20433
United States

Tinbergen Institute ( email )

Burg. Oudlaan 50
Rotterdam, 3062 PA

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