Monday, October 29, 2018

Becker Friedman Expectations Conference

I just returned from a great BFI Conference at U Chicago, Developing and Using Business Expectations Data, organized by Nick Bloom and Steve Davis.

Wonderfully, density as opposed to point survey forecasts were featured throughout. There was the latest on central bank surveys (e.g., Binder et al.), but most informative (to me) was the emphasis on surveys that I'm less familiar with, typically soliciting density expectations from hundreds or thousands of C-suite types at major firms. Examples include Germany's important IFO survey (e.g., Bachman et al.), the U.S. Census Management and Organizational Practices Survey (e.g., Bloom et al.)., and fascinating work in progress at FRB Atlanta. 

The Census survey is especially interesting due to its innovative structuring of histogram bins. There are no fixed bins. Instead users give 5 bins of their own choice, and five corresponding probabilities (which add to 1). This solves the problem in fixed-bin surveys of  (lazy? behaviorally-biased?) respondents routinely and repeatedly assigning 0 probability to subsequently-realized events.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Expansions Don't Die of Old Age

As the expansion ages, there's progressively more discussion of whether its advanced age makes it more likely to end. The answer is no. More formally, postwar U.S. expansion hazards are basically flat, in contrast to contraction hazards, which are sharply increasing. Of course the present expansion will eventually end, and it may even end soon, but its age it unrelated to its probability of ending.

All of this is very clear in Diebold, Rudebusch and Sichel (1992). See Figure 6.2 on p. 271. (Sorry for the poor photocopy quality.) The flat expansion hazard result has held up well (e.g., Rudebusch (2016)), and moreover it would only be strengthened by the current long expansion.

[I blogged on flat expansion hazards before, but the message bears repeating as the expansion continues to age.]

Thursday, October 4, 2018

In Memoriam Herman Stekler

I am sad to report that Herman Stekler passed away last month. I didn't know until now. He was a very early and important and colorful -- indeed unique -- personage in the forecasting community, making especially noteworthy contributions to forecast evaluation.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Tyranny of the Top 5 Econ Journals

Check out:

James J. Heckman and Sidharth Moktan 
NBER Working Paper 25093

Heckman et al. examine a range of data from a variety of perspectives, analyze them thoroughly, and pull no punches in describing their striking results.

It's a great paper. There's a lot I could add, maybe in a future post, but my blood pressure is already high enough for today. So I'll just leave you with a few choice quotes from the paper ["T5" means "top-5 economics journals" ]:

"The results ... support the hypothesis that the T5 influence operates through channels that are independent of article quality."

"Reliance on the T5 to screen talent incentivizes careerism over creativity."

"Economists at highly ranked departments with established reputations are increasingly not publishing in T5 or field journals and more often post papers online in influential working paper series, which are highly cited, but not counted as T5s."

"Many non-T5 articles are better cited than many articles in T5 journals. ...  Indeed, many of the most important papers published in the past 50 years have been too innovative to survive the T5 gauntlet."

"The [list of] most cited non-T5 papers reads like an honor roll of economic analysis."

"The T5 ignores publication of books. Becker’s Human Capital
(1964) has more than 4 times the number of citations of any paper listed on RePEc. The exclusion of books from citation warps incentives against broad and integrated research and towards writing bite-sized fragments of ideas."