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Crazy about time series

Crazy about time series

Photographer:Fotograaf: Joey Roberts/Simone Golob

Andries de Grip inspired by Jan Tinbergen

He will have been an inspiration for many economists, both in the Netherlands and abroad. If only for the fact that Jan Tinbergen (1903-1994) was one of the founding fathers of Econometrics. He moved in the same circles as Einstein and Keynes, and was the first to receive the Nobel Prize for Economics, in 1969.

Very honourable, that Nobel Prize, but that is not the most important thing for Andries de Grip (60). He is a professor of Labour Market and Education at the School of Business and Economics and director of ROA (Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market). “Tinbergen is an example because he combined high-quality research with social relevance. That is what ROA does too. We are mostly known for our labour market forecasts and research on graduates, but we also publish in leading journals.”

De Grip studied Economics at the VU in Amsterdam from 1974 until 1981. So not an ‘eternal student’, all the more so because in those seven years he was a student assistant for two and a half years, in the working group ‘De Lange Golven’ (The Long Waves, the name sounds like poetry but refers simply to long-term fluctuations in the economy). “Not with Tinbergen but with J.B.D. Derksen. I never knew his first name. I addressed him as ‘mister Derksen’. Later I came to cherish that, it had something. Derksen was a man of status, but his contact was never distant."

As a student assistant, De Grip created time series based on Netherlands Statistics (CBS) data in The Hague. These went back way into the nineteenth century. "For example, I made an inventory of how many students had enrolled for studies in the Netherlands since 1800 and then tried to discover patterns. It was working with records, rummaging through hand-written statistical documents. Tinbergen, who knew Derksen well, was crazy about time series and inquired now and again how things were coming along. He saw the dataset as one of the CBS’ treasures, just waiting to be opened up. I really don’t remember our conversations exactly. The man was on such a high pedestal, as a student I won’t have asked him many questions."

Tinbergen is also an inspiration for De Grip because he was one of the first economists to address the role of education for the labour market. “He observed a race between education and technology, discovered that technology was setting increasingly higher demands on employees, which is still the case. Just look at the digital developments, which makes working in all sectors of the economy much more complex. Secretarial office work, for example, has become much more complex than it was in the nineteen-eighties, requiring much more responsibility and higher qualifications. So technology continuously increases the demand for more highly educated workers."

Who was going to win the race? Tinbergen was very clear on that point. “Education would only be able to keep up with technology if governments invested a lot in education.”

 

This is a series in which researchers talk about the person who inspired them most

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