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Debt, Growth, and .xls


Reinhart and Rogoff, NYT, Debt, Growth and the Austerity Debate, here.  That’s pretty much the last .xls file that will be sent from Cambridge to Amherst. Expect a steady flow of .pdf in the future.

Last week, three economists at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, released a paper criticizing our findings. They correctly identified a spreadsheet coding error that led us to miscalculate the growth rates of highly indebted countries since World War II. But they also accused us of “serious errors” stemming from “selective exclusion” of relevant data and “unconventional weighting” of statistics — charges that we vehemently dispute. (In an online-only appendix accompanying this essay, we explain the methodological and technical issues that are in dispute.)

Ritholtz, The Big Picture, The Fine Art of Being Wrong, here.

This week’s mother of all refusals to admit mistake has to be Harvard professors Reinhart & Rogoff. Instead of clearly and honestly issuing a mea culpa, they half admitted error, then back-peddled in a stunningly dishonest OpEd in the NYT today. We still don’t know what the real drop-dead line is for debt because they refuse to admit the mistake and try again (please consider peer reviewed publication next time).

Lisa Pollack, Alphaville, ExcelFu: as attractively cheap as it is deadly, here. Pink I’s gotta buck on RR taking a bullet for the grad student’s sloppy XL.

What’s that, Lassie Excel? Timmy’s fallen down a well? We’ve entered a formula omitting numbers in adjacent cells?

By Jove, we have! What should we do?

Ruff, ruff!!!

Update the formula to include the cells? Alright!

This sort of error, along with stuff like this (contained in an explanatory text file of the additional files supplied by Herndon et al so that you, dear reader, can recreate their work):

We deleted a sheet that is labelled Hungary but is in fact a duplicate sheet for France in the RR working spreadsheet and consolidate into one sheet the two sheets that contain Finland data in the RR working spreadsheet.

Leaves one with the impression of total blundering with Excel. Now, is this a case of Reinhart and Rogoff having sloppy research assistants, or really fumbling themselves?

Tyler Durden, Zerohedge, Guest Post: Scoring the Reinhart-Rogoff Debate, here. RR were blindsided and did not immediately understand how much the excel error would undermine their defense. RR need to display a better sense of humor and get out in front of this. Go on Letterman, Conan, Stewart, or Colbert with their XL tips and tricks recommendations and this is over. Didn’t Conan take one of their classes or something back in the day, why is this taking so long? It’s just not that hard.  Thousand word, multipart, detailed defenses in NYT Op Ed – makes em look like they’re batting cleanup for Team Taleb.

The three Massachusetts authors – Thomas Herndon, Michael Ash and Robert Pollin, now known on the Internet as “HAP” – argued that a heavily cited 2010 paper by Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff (RR) contained fatal errors. In a critique that was released to the public last Tuesday, they revealed a calculation error in one of RR’s spreadsheets. And they also argued that RR omitted data points without justification and used an unconventional weighting method in their statistical averages. In response, RR acknowledged the calculation error but defended their data set and weighting methods.


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