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Jan Tinbergen

Jan Tinbergen

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Jan Tinbergen was a Dutch
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

An economist is a professional in the social science discipline of economics. The individual may also study, develop, and apply theories and concepts from economics and write about economic policy...

. He was awarded the first Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel in 1969, which he shared with Ragnar Frisch for having developed and applied dynamic models for the analysis of economic processes
Business process
A business process or business method is a collection of related, structured activities or tasks that produce a specific service or product for a particular customer or customers...

. Tinbergen was a founding trustee of Economists for Peace and Security
Economists for Peace and Security
Economists for Peace and Security is a United Nations-registered, New York-based NGO which links economists interested in peace and security issues. Inspired by International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, it was founded in 1989 as Economists Against the Arms Race , before becoming...



Jan Tinbergen was the eldest of five children of Dirk Cornelis Tinbergen and Jeannette van Eek. His brother Niko
Nikolaas Tinbergen
Nikolaas "Niko" Tinbergen was a Dutch ethologist and ornithologist who shared the 1973 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Karl von Frisch and Konrad Lorenz for their discoveries concerning organization and elicitation of individual and social behaviour patterns in animals.In the 1960s he...

 would also win a Nobel Prize (for physiology
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine administered by the Nobel Foundation, is awarded once a year for outstanding discoveries in the field of life science and medicine. It is one of five Nobel Prizes established in 1895 by Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, in his will...

, during 1973) for his work in ethology
Ethology is the scientific study of animal behavior, and a sub-topic of zoology....

, while his youngest brother Luuk
Luuk Tinbergen
Luuk Tinbergen was a Dutch ornithologist and ecologist.Tinbergen was the youngest of three eminent brothers — both Jan and Nikolaas won Nobel Prizes, for economics and physiology or medicine, respectively.He was appointed in 1949 by Gerard Baerends to the University of Groningen, where he...

 would become a famous ornithologist. Tinbergen studied mathematics
Mathematics is the study of quantity, space, structure, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns and formulate new conjectures. Mathematicians resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures by mathematical proofs, which are arguments sufficient to convince other mathematicians of their validity...

 and physics
Physics is a natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion through spacetime, along with related concepts such as energy and force. More broadly, it is the general analysis of nature, conducted in order to understand how the universe behaves.Physics is one of the oldest academic...

 at the University of Leiden under Paul Ehrenfest
Paul Ehrenfest
Paul Ehrenfest was an Austrian and Dutch physicist, who made major contributions to the field of statistical mechanics and its relations with quantum mechanics, including the theory of phase transition and the Ehrenfest theorem.- Biography :Paul Ehrenfest was born and grew up in Vienna in a Jewish...

. During 1929 he earned his PhD
Doctor of Philosophy
Doctor of Philosophy, abbreviated as Ph.D., PhD, D.Phil., or DPhil , in English-speaking countries, is a postgraduate academic degree awarded by universities...

 degree at this university with his thesis
A dissertation or thesis is a document submitted in support of candidature for an academic degree or professional qualification presenting the author's research and findings...

 entitled "Minimumproblemen in de natuurkunde en de economie" (Minimisation problems in Physics and Economics). From 1929 till 1945 he worked, in addition to his professorship at Erasmus University Rotterdam, for the Dutch
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

 statistical office. He was also consultant to the League of Nations
League of Nations
The League of Nations was an intergovernmental organization founded as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War. It was the first permanent international organization whose principal mission was to maintain world peace...

. From 1945 till 1955 he served as the first director of the Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis
CPB (Netherlands)
The CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis is an independent Dutch government agency founded in 1945 by Jan Tinbergen. It is located in The Hague....

. Jan Tinbergen was a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Science and of the International Academy of Science. During 1956 he founded the Econometric Institute at the Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam together with Henri Theil
Henri Theil
Henri Theil was a Dutch econometrician.He graduated from the University of Amsterdam. He was the successor of Jan Tinbergen at the Erasmus University Rotterdam. Later he taught in Chicago and at the University of Florida. He is most famous for his invention of 2-stage least squares...

, who also was his successor in Rotterdam
Rotterdam is the second-largest city in the Netherlands and one of the largest ports in the world. Starting as a dam on the Rotte river, Rotterdam has grown into a major international commercial centre...

. The Tinbergen Institute
Tinbergen Institute
The Tinbergen Institute is a joint institute for economic research of the University of Amsterdam, the Vrije Universiteit and the Erasmus University...

 was named in his honour.
The International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) awarded its Honorary Fellowship to Jan Tinbergen in 1962.


Tinbergen became known for his 'Tinbergen Norm', which is the principle that, if the difference between the least and greatest income in a company exceeds a rate of 1:5, that will not help the company and may be counterproductive.

Tinbergen developed the first national comprehensive macroeconomic model, which he first developed in 1936 for the Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

, and later applied to the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 and the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...


In his work on macroeconomic modeling and economic policy making, Tinbergen classified some economic quantities as targets and others as instruments
Macroeconomic policy instruments
Macroeconomic policy instruments refer to macroeconomic quantities that can be directly controlled by an economic policy maker. Instruments can be divided into two subsets: a) Monetary policy instruments and b) Fiscal policy instruments. Monetary policy is conducted by the Federal Reserve or the...

. Targets are those macroeconomic variables the policy maker wishes to influence, whereas instruments are the variables that the policy maker can control directly. Tinbergen emphasized that achieving the desired values of a certain number of targets requires the policy maker to control an equal number of instruments.

Tinbergen's classification remains influential today, underlying the theory of monetary policy used by central bank
Central bank
A central bank, reserve bank, or monetary authority is a public institution that usually issues the currency, regulates the money supply, and controls the interest rates in a country. Central banks often also oversee the commercial banking system of their respective countries...

s. Many central banks today regard the inflation rate
Inflation rate
In economics, the inflation rate is a measure of inflation, the rate of increase of a price index . It is the percentage rate of change in price level over time. The rate of decrease in the purchasing power of money is approximately equal.The inflation rate is used to calculate the real interest...

 as their target; the policy instrument they use to control inflation is the short-term interest rate
Interest rate
An interest rate is the rate at which interest is paid by a borrower for the use of money that they borrow from a lender. For example, a small company borrows capital from a bank to buy new assets for their business, and in return the lender receives interest at a predetermined interest rate for...


Tinbergen's work on macroeconomic models was later continued by Lawrence Klein
Lawrence Klein
Lawrence Robert Klein is an American economist. For his work in creating computer models to forecast economic trends in the field of econometrics at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, he was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1980...

, contributing to another Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. For his cultural contributions, he was given the Gouden Ganzenveer
Gouden Ganzenveer
The Gouden Ganzenveer is a Dutch cultural award initiated in 1955, given annually to a person or organization of great significance to the written and printed word. Recipients are selected by an academy of people from the cultural, political, scientific, and corporate world. Members meet once a...

 in 1985.

Selected Publications of Jan Tinbergen

  • Centralization and Decentralization in Economic Policy. Westport: Greenwood, 1981. ISBN 0-313-23077-3.
  • Der Dialog Nord-Süd: Informationen zur Entwicklungspolitik. Frankfurt am Main: Europ. Verlagsanstalt, 1977.
  • The Dynamics of Business Cycles: A Study in Economic Fluctuations. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1974. ISBN 0-226-80418-6.
  • On the Theory of Economic Policy. Second edition (1952) is Volume 1 of Contributions to Economic Analysis, Amsterdam: North-Holland.
  • Economic policy: Principles and Design. Amsterdam, 1978. ISBN 0-7204-3129-8.

External links