Econometrics, The Society, and Cowles:

Q&A with Stephen Morris

Stephen Morris is the Alexander Stewart 1886 Professor of Economics at Princeton University and is currently serving as the First Vice-President of the Econometrics Society. He was a faculty member at Yale before going to Princeton in 2005, and it so happens that Prof. Morris is also a visiting faculty member at the Cowles Foundation for the spring 2018 semester. He was kind enough to sit down with us to discuss the Econometrics Society.

Stephen Morris

CQ: How long have you been a member of the Econometric Society and why did you decide to join?

SM: I became a member as a student. I decided to join because in those days getting journals was not that easy, and the point of a membership was to get the journal. When I was a Ph.D. student I went to work in Africa for a couple of years, and I used to get Econometrica mailed to me in Uganda, so that’s what the membership did for me. 

CQ: How do you see the mission of the Society?

SM: The mission of the Econometric Society is that it wants to cover all areas of economics, substantive as well as methodological, but with attention to the underlying analytical methods that use mathematical reasoning and quantitative methods.The Econometric Society operates in all continents and it serves as a vehicle to disseminate leading-edge methods and economics around the world. 

CQ: How has Economics changed and how has the mission of the Society changed with it?

SM: Back in the 1930s, the use of mathematical and quantitative methods was novel; now those methods have taken over. the Society is on the cutting-edge of using those methods. Economics as a discipline has matured and taken on-board the kind of methods the people at the Econometric Society and Cowles were advocating in the 1930s so it’s matured, it’s grown, it’s become more unified in many ways. 

CQ: Where do you see the future of the society?

SM: I would like to see the society continue to be on the leading-edge in terms of new methods and ideas, but continuing to connect with substantive topics and policy questions and economic. It’s really bridging that gap between being on the frontier of methodology, building on the introduction of mathematical-statistical methods from the 1930s, and embedding it within applied economic analysis.

CQ: How important is the Society’s mission in today’s global economic climate?

SM: I think it’s extremely important. In the 30s, it was very much with two pillars; Europe and North America with a core of people on both sides of the Atlantic. Since then we’ve seen expansion in the regions. The Asia regions have become huge. China has become a big area of activity for the Econometric Society. We launched a Latin American region, an Australis region, and the African region started maybe 10 years ago. Activities outside of North America and Europe are expanding. The Society has recently started summer schools around the world, acting as an umbrella and endorsing them. 

CQ: How did you take the news that the business offices were moving back to the Cowles Foundation?

SM: I thought it was very nice. It is useful for the Econometric Society to have a base. They started out with the same mission and they have a similar mission today. Cowles has been supporting the Society in funding. It’s very nice to have an institutional base and its nice to have this historical connection.