DEFINITION of 'Jan Tinbergen'

Jan Tinbergen is a Dutch economist who won the first Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics in 1969, which he shared with Ragnar Frisch for their work in the development and application of dynamic models for analyzing economic processes. Tinbergen was one of the first economists to apply math to economics and is considered a pioneer in the economics field, as well as in econometrics.

BREAKING DOWN 'Jan Tinbergen'

Born in The Hague in The Netherlands in 1903, Tinbergen attended the University of Leiden and defended his PhD thesis in 1929 on “Minimization problems in Physics and Economics,” a thesis which allowed him to engage a cross-disciplinary approach to his further research in mathematics, physics, economics and politics.

He was then tapped by The Netherlands Central Bureau of Statistics to become the chairman of a new department of business surveys and mathematical statistics, a position in government that he held until 1945. During that period, he also became a professor of mathematics and statistics at the University of Amsterdam and at the Netherland School of Economics. During that time, from 1936-1938, Tinbergen also was a consultant to the League of Nations, filling positions in government and education simultaneously.

In 1945 he became the first director of The Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis and left this position in 1955 to focus on education and spent a year at Harvard University.  He also served as an economic consultant to a host of developing nations, including United Arab Republic, Turkey, and Venezuela.

Throughout his career, Tinbergen was interested in the issues of income distribution in a culture, and the phrase “Tinbergen Norm,” arose from a theory he pursued that a society that has a larger than 5 to 1 gap between the lowest income and the highest income, insurmountable social issues would occur.

Influence of 'Jan Tinbergen'

Tinbergen helped to develop the field of econometrics and developed multi-equation models of national economies that were a precursor to today's computer-driven economic forecasts. His research focused on macroeconomics, business cycles and economic development. He also developed the idea that governments must use multiple policy instruments if they want to impact multiple policy targets. This is based on the idea that if policy makers have certain targets they wish to reach, they must have an equal number of instruments that they control in order to effectively direct policy towards the targets. This is akin to saying that if you want to shoot five deer (targets) you have to have at least five bullets (instruments.) Understanding these types of models can help policy makers aim for targets that are relational to the instruments they control.

An innovator in macroeconomic modeling, Tinbergen developed the first comprehensive macroeconomic model, first for the Netherlands and then exported to the United Kingdom and the United States. In the course of his career, he authored several important texts for the field of economics, including The Dynamics of Business Cycles: A Study in Economic Fluctuations. Chicago: U of Chicago Press, 1974

  1. Mathematical Economics

    Mathematical economics is a form of economics that relies on ...
  2. Ronald H. Coase

    Ronald H. Coase was a British economist who won the 1991 Nobel ...
  3. Development Economics

    Development economics is a branch of economic study that focuses ...
  4. Sir Arthur Lewis

    Sir Arthur Lewis was an economist who made significant contributions ...
  5. Douglass C. North

    Douglass C. North was an American economist and winner of the ...
  6. Robert E. Lucas Jr.

    Robert E. Lucas Jr. is an American economist who won the 1995 ...
Related Articles
  1. Investing

    How 5 Influential Economists Changed Americas History

    Find out how five economists made contributions to financial theory that crossed over into many aspects of social history in America such as Adam Smith.
  2. Insights

    Harvard and MIT Professors Win Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics

    British economist Oliver Hart, 68, and Finnish economist Bengt Holmström, 67, were honored with the award today for their contributions to contract theory.
  3. Insights

    5 Nobel Prize-Winning Economic Theories You Should Know About

    Here are 5 prize-winning economic theories that you’ll want to be familiar with.
  4. Insights

    Where Does the Nobel Prize Money Come From?

    The cash award associated with the Nobel Prize has changed in value considerably since the first awards in 1901. Find out where it come from today.
  5. Investing

    Business Cycle

    The business cycle refers to the fluctuations in economic activity that an economy experiences over a period of time. It consists of expansions, or periods of economic growth, and contractions, ...
  6. Insights

    Can Keynesian Economics Reduce Boom-Bust Cycles?

    Learn about this famous British economist's proposed solution to a widespread economic problem.
  7. Insights

    Explaining The World Through Macroeconomic Analysis

    From unemployment and inflation to government policy, learn what macroeconomics measures and how it affects everyone.
  8. Insights

    Global Trade Outlook Clouded by Policy Uncertainty

    The World Bank says global trade and economic growth are still struggling
  9. Personal Finance

    6 Jobs You Can't Get Without A PhD

    There are many types of PhDs available, but only a handful of careers actually require this prestigious degree.
  1. What impact does economics have on government policy?

    Learn about the impact of economic conditions on government policy and understand how governments engineer economic conditions ... Read Answer >>
  2. What is the difference between macroeconomics and finance?

    Dive into the world of economics by learning the key differences between macroeconomics and finance. These ideas help investors ... Read Answer >>
  3. What are some of the limitations and drawbacks of economics as a field?

    Find out why the field of economics is full of controversy. Policy decisions, political campaigns and personal finances are ... Read Answer >>
  4. How do I differentiate between micro and macro economics?

    Differentiating between microeconomics and macroeconomics is primarily concerned with the difference of the scales of the ... Read Answer >>
  5. What is the difference between accounting and economics?

    Discover the difference between accounting and economics by comparing and contrasting the financial discipline of accounting ... Read Answer >>
  6. What macroeconomic problems do policy makers most commonly face?

    Learn about the macroeconomic factors policymakers have to be concerned with when deciding on economic policies, such as ... Read Answer >>
Trading Center