numbers with reinhart and rogoff

Harvard Economists Still Not Doing So Hot With Numbers

Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images ; Jin Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Last year, Harvard economists Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff made themselves infamous with the Excel mistake heard round the world – an elementary spreadsheet snafu, pointed out by a 28-year-old UMass Amherst grad student, that dramatically changed the findings of their landmark debt study. The error became the talk of the international economics community, and threw Reinhart and Rogoff’s influential conclusions — which had been cited by conservative politicians around the world to justify cutting government spending — into the academic Hall of Shame.

You might think that, upon being burned so badly by a number-based error, Reinhart and Rogoff would quadruple-check every fact and figure in their next joint work. Unfortunately, it took them only five words to screw up again.

Here’s the very beginning of Reinhart and Rogoff’s latest effort, a paper written last month that argues that our current economic recovery is fairly robust compared to other global recoveries of the last 200 years:

Photo: Carmen

Notice anything? Yep, that’s a “2014” in the first line, where a “2013” should be. (Unless, of course, Reinhart and Rogoff are capable of time travel.)

There are more substantive issues with Reinhart and Rogoff’s paper – such as their assertion that per-capita GDP, and not unemployment or median household wages, is the relevant metric for economic recovery, and the fact that they blithely recommend that high-income countries adopt potentially destructive tools like debt restructurings and capital controls in order to speed their recoveries. But a second easily avoidable typo from a pair of tenured Harvard econo-stars whose first easily avoidable typo subjected them to international ridicule is pretty funny.

Harvard Economists Not Doing So Hot With Numbers