Entangled Economists: Ragnar Frisch and Jan Tinbergen

24 Pages Posted: 27 Jan 2020

See all articles by Erwin Dekker

Erwin Dekker

Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR)

Date Written: January 6, 2020


It is 50 years since the first Nobel Prize in economics was awarded to Jan Tinbergen and Ragnar Frisch. This article analyzes, based on their correspondence, the cooperation between these pioneers of econometrics which spanned four decades and various subfields in economics. It is demonstrated that Frisch was responsible for the theoretical breakthroughs, which were then made public and popular by Tinbergen, this is true for the econometric models of the 1930s, the econometric decision-models of the 1950s, as well as the work on utility measurement. This division of labor is analyzed in relation to the goals they pursued in the research and their respective perfectionistic (Frisch) and pragmatic (Tinbergen) approaches to economic science. Both men shared a sense of deep social responsibility, but small differences in personality and approaches to science generated important differences in scientific recognition and political reception of their work. Although they are widely remembered for helping to turn into economics into a quantitative empirical science, it is demonstrated in this article that personal factors were significant in shaping their scientific approaches.

Keywords: Jan Tinbergen, Ragnar Frisch, History of Econometrics, Nobel Prize in Economics, Policy Models

JEL Classification: A14, B23, B20, C18

Suggested Citation

Dekker, Erwin, Entangled Economists: Ragnar Frisch and Jan Tinbergen (January 6, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3514445 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3514445

Erwin Dekker (Contact Author)

Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) ( email )

Burgemeester Oudlaan 50
3000 DR Rotterdam, Zuid-Holland 3062PA

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