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Jan Tinbergen

A renowned Dutch economist and Nobel Prize winner who gained popularity for the development of econometric models

Who is Jan Tinbergen?

Jan Tinbergen (1903-1994) was a renowned Dutch economist who gained popularity for the development of econometric models through the application of a combination of mathematics and statistics to economic theory.

 

Jan Tinbergen

 

He was the first “Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences” winner in 1969, sharing the award with Ragnar Frisch. They developed and applied dynamic models in the analysis of economic methodologies. Tinbergen is considered one of the founders of econometrics and one of the most influential economists of the 20th century.

 

Summary

  • Jan Tinbergen was a renowned Dutch economist who gained popularity for the development of econometric models through the application of a combination of mathematics and statistics to economic theory.
  • Tinbergen’s works focused primarily on income distribution as a theme.
  • He was the first “Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences” winner in 1969, sharing the award with Ragnar Frisch.

 

Jan Tinbergen’s Early Life

Jan Tinbergen was born on April 12, 1903, in The Hague, Netherlands. Jan’s father, Dirk Cornelis Tinbergen, was a teacher who taught Dutch at the Gymnasium of The Hague. His mother, Jeannette van Eek, was a primary school teacher before she married Dirk. She began offering private tutelage after she was married. Jan Tinbergen was the oldest of five children, consisting of four boys and a girl. Nikolaas Tinbergen, Jan’s younger brother, won the Nobel Prize in Physiology in 1973.

After completing primary school, Jan went to the Hogere Bugerschool in The Hague, where his interest in Mathematics and Science grew. In 1921, he enrolled in the University of Leiden, where he studied Physics and Mathematics. He furthered his studies at the same university, graduating with a doctorate in Physics. While in university, Jan founded a student newspaper and also started a social-democratic club for students.

 

Jan Tinbergen’s Career

After graduating, Jan was appointed to the Dutch government’s Central Bureau of Statistics as a statistician, focusing primarily on business cycles. He held the role between 1929 and 1936 and again from 1938 to 1945. Tinbergen also worked as a professor of economics at the Netherlands School of Economics between 1933 and 1973. He also taught at the University of Leiden for two years, retiring in 1975. From 1936 to 1938, Tinbergen served as an economic advisor for the League of Nations at Geneva.

In earlier years (1919 to 1932), Jan performed an econometric study, focusing on economic development in the U.S. The study formed the basis of his theories surrounding business cycle concepts and guiding principles to foster economic stability. Jan also established an econometric model that assisted in the formation of the short and long-term political-economic development for the Netherlands.

 

Jan Tinbergen’s Works

Jan Tinbergen’s works focused primarily on income distribution as a theme. Through his theories surrounding the five-to-one income distribution ratio, Jan argued that in a scenario where the ratio between the highest income and the lowest income is greater than five (5), it creates a disadvantage for the societal group affected.

In 1936, Tinbergen developed a wide-ranging macroeconomic model for the Netherlands during his time as an advisor to the League of Nations. The model was also later adapted to the United Kingdom and the United States.

In addition to his development of the econometric models, Tinbergen derived a classification for certain economic quantities. The classifications are “targets” and “instruments.” The “target” variables are those that a policymaker or researcher would like to affect, and the “instruments” are variables that can be directly controlled and/or managed by the policymaker.

According to the “Tinbergen Rule,” a policymaker would have to control a certain number of instruments to obtain desired values of an equal number (i.e., equal to the number of instruments) of economic targets.

 

Popular Publications

Some of Jan Tinbergen’s publications include (but may not be limited to):

  • “Business Cycles in the United States” (1968)
  • “Business Cycles in the United Kingdom” (1951)
  • “On the Theory of Economic Policy” (1952)
  • “Centralization and Decentralization in Economic Policy” (1954)
  • “Economic Policy: Principles and Design” in (1956)
  • “The Element of Space in Development Planning” (with L.B.M. Mennes and J.G. Waardenburg) (1969)
  • “The Dynamics of Business Cycles: A Study in Economic Fluctuations” (1974)
  • “Der Dialog Nord-Süd: Informationen zur Entwicklungspolitik” (1977)
  • “Economic policy: Principles and Design” (1978)

 

Related Readings

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  • Economic Indicators
  • Joseph Stiglitz
  • Keynesian Economic Theory
  • Milton Friedman

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