Shape of things to come

Have years of austerity been the result of a basic Excel mistake?

“I clicked on cell L51, and saw that they had only averaged rows 30 through 44, instead of rows 30 through 49.”
Thomas Herndon, grad student

This Excel mistake is in a spreadsheet that was used to draw the conclusion of an influential 2010 economics paper that was later cited to justify programmes of austerity in the UK and around the world. The researchers who wrote the paper, Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff, have now admitted it was wrong.

Another UMass Amherst professor, Arindrajit Dube, followed up on Herndon’s paper with additional proof that there were serious theoretical and causal problems (as opposed to just sloppy Excel work) in the study.

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