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A Plea for Errors

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  • Charles Feinstein

    (All Souls College, Oxford)

  • Mark Thomas

    (Nuffield College, Oxford)

Abstract

This paper argues that all historical data series should be accompanied by formal estimates of their margins of error. We discuss the nature of errors in data series and review earlier attempts to assess their reliability. We show how overall margins of error may be calculated for historical series from judgments on the reliability of their components, and how these allow readers both to appraise the estimate and to test the implications of applying different standards. An illustration is provided for Hoffmann’s index of British industrial output, 1770–1831. The calculations emphasize the value of this approach to the recent debate on growth rates during the industrial revolution and suggest its merits more generally.

Suggested Citation

  • Charles Feinstein & Mark Thomas, 2001. "A Plea for Errors," Oxford University Economic and Social History Series _041, Economics Group, Nuffield College, University of Oxford.
  • Handle: RePEc:nuf:esohwp:_041
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    File URL: http://www.economics.ox.ac.uk/materials/papers/2277/feinstein2.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Federico, Giovanni & Tena, Antonio, 1991. "On the accuracy of foreign trade statistics (1909-1935): Morgenstern revisited," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 28(3), pages 259-273, July.
    2. N. F. R. Crafts & C. K. Harley, 1992. "Output growth and the British industrial revolution: a restatement of the Crafts-Harley view," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 45(4), pages 703-730, November.
    3. N/A, 1984. "The Three Measures of GDP," National Institute Economic Review, National Institute of Economic and Social Research, vol. 107(1), pages 54-59, February.
    4. C. K. Harley & N. F. R. Crafts, 1995. "Cotton textiles and industrial output growth during the industrial revolution," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 48(1), pages 134-144, February.
    5. Javier Cuenca Esteban, 1994. "British textile prices, 1770-1831: are British growth rates worth revising once again?," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 47(1), pages 66-105, February.
    6. Temin, Peter, 1997. "Two Views of the British Industrial Revolution," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 57(01), pages 63-82, March.
    7. Richard Stone & D. G. Champernowne & J. E. Meade, 1942. "The Precision of National Income Estimates," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 9(2), pages 111-125.
    8. Simon Kuznets & Lillian Epstein & Elizabeth Jenks, 1946. "National Income and Its Composition, 1919-1938, Volume II," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number kuzn41-3, January.
    9. Thomas J. Weiss, 1992. "U. S. Labor Force Estimates and Economic Growth, 1800-1860," NBER Chapters,in: American Economic Growth and Standards of Living before the Civil War, pages 19-78 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Greasley David & Oxley Les, 1995. "Balanced versus Compromise Estimates of UK GDP 1870-1913," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 32(2), pages 262-272, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Regina Grafe & Camilla Brautaset, 2006. "The Quiet Transport Revolution: Returns to Scale, Scope and Network Density in Norway`s Nineteenth-Century Sailing Fleet," Economics Series Working Papers 2006-W62, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    2. van Zanden, Jan Luiten & van Leeuwen, Bas, 2012. "Persistent but not consistent: The growth of national income in Holland 1347–1807," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 49(2), pages 119-130.
    3. Guillaume Daudin, 2008. "Domestic Trade and Market Size in Late Eighteenth-Century France," Economics Series Working Papers 69, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    4. J.Humphries & T. Leunig, 2007. "Cities, Market Integration and Going to Sea: Stunting and the standard of living in early nineteenth-century England and Wales," Oxford University Economic and Social History Series _066, Economics Group, Nuffield College, University of Oxford.
    5. Mohammad Niaz Asadullah, 2006. "Educational Disparity in East and West Pakistan, 1947–71: Was East Pakistan Discriminated Against?," Oxford University Economic and Social History Series _063, Economics Group, Nuffield College, University of Oxford.
    6. Robert Dryburgh, 2003. "Individual, Illegal, and Unjust Purposes': Overseers, Incentives, and the Old Poor Law in Bolton, 1820-1837," Oxford University Economic and Social History Series _050, Economics Group, Nuffield College, University of Oxford.
    7. S. Solomou & C. A. Ristuccia, 2002. "British Episodic Economic Growth 1850-1938," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 0208, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.
    8. Oliver Wavell Grant, 2002. "Productivity in German Agriculture: Estimates of Agricultural Productivity from Regional Accounts for 21 German Regions: 1880/4, 1893/7 and 1905/9," Oxford University Economic and Social History Series _047, Economics Group, Nuffield College, University of Oxford.
    9. repec:oxf:wpaper:69.2 is not listed on IDEAS

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