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The USDA Graduate School: Government Training in Statistics and Economics, 1921-1945

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Abstract

The USDA Graduate School was founded in 1921 to provide statistical and economic training to the employees of the Department of Agriculture. The School did not grant degrees, but its graduate courses were accepted for credit by a significant number of universities.After its founding, the activities of the School grew rapidly to provide training in many different subject areas for employees from almost all Government Departments. The training in statistics provided by the School was often highly advanced (instructors included Howard Tolly and, later, Edwards Deming), while the economics taught displayed an eclectic mix of standard and institutional economics. Mordecai Ezekiel taught both economics and statistics at the school, and had himself received his statistical training there. Statistics instruction in 1936 and 1937 included seminars from R. A. Fisher and J. Neyman, and courses on sampling theory involving Lester Frankel and William Hurwitz became important after 1939. The instruction in economics was noticeably institutionalist in the period of the New Deal. Towards the end of the period considered here the instruction in economics became narrower and more focused on agricultural economics. The instruction given provides a basis for understanding the sources of the relative statistical sophistication of agricultural economists in the interwar period. It also provides a light on the place of institutional economics in the training of government economists through the same time span. It is noteworthy than within the USDA Graduate School, and in contrast to the Cowles Commission, statistical sophistication co-existed with an approach to economics that was not predominantly neoclassical.

Suggested Citation

  • Malcolm Rutherford, 2009. "The USDA Graduate School: Government Training in Statistics and Economics, 1921-1945," Department Discussion Papers 0901, Department of Economics, University of Victoria.
  • Handle: RePEc:vic:vicddp:0901
    Note: ISSN 1914-2838
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Rutherford, Malcolm & Desroches, C. Tyler, 2008. "The Institutionalist Reaction To Keynesian Economics," Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Cambridge University Press, vol. 30(01), pages 29-48, March.
    2. Fox, Karl A, 1989. "Agricultural Economists in the Econometric Revolution: Institutional Background, Literature and Leading Figures," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 41(1), pages 53-70, January.
    3. Malcolm Rutherford, 2003. "On the Economic Frontier: Walton Hamilton, Institutional Economics, and Education," History of Political Economy, Duke University Press, vol. 35(4), pages 611-653, Winter.
    4. H. Spencer Banzhaf, 2006. "The Other Economics Department: Demand and Value Theory in Early Agricultural Economics," History of Political Economy, Duke University Press, vol. 38(5), pages 9-31, Supplemen.
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    Keywords

    Department of Agriculture; Agricultural Economics; Statistic; Institutional Economics; Training;

    JEL classification:

    • B2 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought since 1925
    • C1 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods and Methodology: General
    • Q1 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture

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