Jan Tinbergen
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The Hague, Netherlands
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Jan Tinbergen was a well-known Dutch economist who lived in the 20th century. In 1969, he won the Nobel Prize in Economics. He made important contributions to the field of econometrics, which brought together math and statistics with economic theory. Even though he studied physics and math before going to the University of Leiden, he quickly realized that if he wanted to make a real difference in the world, he needed to study economics. He got his PhD in physics by studying the subject on his own, and then he worked at the Bureau of Statistics for almost sixteen years before moving to the Central Planning Bureau of Netherlands. At the same time, he worked as an Associate Professor of Mathematics and Statistics at the Netherlands School of Economics. Later, when he retired from the Central Planning Bureau, he taught full-time. Some of his doctoral students went on to become well-known economists. He is known as one of the founders of econometrics today. He did a lot of important things, like figuring out how dynamic models work, making the first macroeconometric models, and solving the identification problem. He was known for being kind and humble, and he never said anything bad about his colleagues. He could have used his skills to get rich, but instead, he chose to help people with what he knew.

Early years and childhood

Jan Tinbergen was born in The Hague on April 12, 1903. His father, Dirk Cornelis Tinbergen, was a scholar of Middle Dutch who taught the Dutch language at the Gymnasium of The Hague. He was able to pass on his love of art and language to his kids by taking them for walks and bike rides often.

Jeanette nee van Eek, his mother, was the daughter of a math teacher. Before she got married, she taught first grade in Scheveningen. After that, she gave private lessons to make some extra money. She was almost the personification of order and routine, running the house well while also studying math on her own time.

Jan was the oldest of the five children his parents had. Nikolaas Tinbergen, who won the Nobel Prize for Physiology in 1973, was standing next to him. Luuk Tinbergen was the youngest. He grew up to become a well-known ornithologist and ecologist. There was a sister named Jacomiena and a brother named Dik in between them.

Jan grew up in the same house as his parents and siblings, as well as with a number of other children. Most of them were born in the Dutch East Indies, where their parents lived. But during the First World War, they also took in refugees from Belgium and Austria.

Jan Tinbergen was a very good student from the start. In his primary school, he got a certificate for being the “most excellent pupil.” Later, he went to Hogere Bugerschool, which was made for children from middle-class families who wanted to move up. In this school, the sciences and math were his favorite subjects.

While he was at Hogere Bugerschool, the First World War broke out. The horror that followed had a big effect on young Jan and helped him form his ideas about society and the economy at a young age.

Tinbergen had to take an extra test in Latin and Greek after he graduated from high school. Only then could he go to the University of Leiden in 1921. Here, he started with his favorite subjects, which were math and theoretical physics.

At Leiden, his teacher Paul Ehrenfest, who taught through dialogues, had a big impact on him. Tinbergen later said in an interview that he was able to talk with Albert Einstein because he did these things. There were also Kamerling Onnes, Lorentz, and Zeeman there.

During the First World War, he got to know the horrors of war through the refugee children who lived with him and his family. Sometimes while he was in college, he started going with the postman on his rounds and was shocked by how poor people were.

Tinbergen realized that he needed to study economics if he wanted to make a big difference in the world. Now, he wanted to finish his course quickly so he could switch to economics.

He kept doing social things the whole time, like starting a club for social-democratic students and a student newspaper. In 1923, he joined the Labor Party and its youth wing. At the time, he was still in college.

Tinbergen got his degree from the University of Leiden in 1925. After that, he had to do his military service, but he could get out of it because he was a conscientious objector. He was instead put in charge of running the State Prison of Rotterdam State.

He was to spend fifteen months in the Rotterdam State Prison. But after five months, his father got him moved to The Hague to work at the Central Bureau of Statistics. Here, he did his service for the last ten months.

In 1928, he went back to the University of Leiden to finish his Ph.D. In his dissertation, “Minimumproblemen in de natuurkunde en de ekonomie,” he combined his interests in physics, mathematics, and economics. He defended his thesis in 1929. At the time, he was working for Paul Ehrenfest.

Jan Tinbergen’s Career

Tinbergen was given a permanent job at the Central Bureau of Statistics in 1928. The head of the bureau was happy with what Tinbergen had done and offered him the job. So, after he got his Ph.D. in Physics in 1929, he went to work as a statistician at CBS, where he stayed until 1945.

At first, he was the editor of “De Nederlandsche Conjunctuur,” the Bureau’s official journal, which had just started up. But as soon as their business cycle research unit opened, he was put in charge of it.

Here, he used an empirical approach to solve the economic problems caused by the ongoing depression. He was also able to test his theories with the help of the huge amount of data held by CBS.

In 1930, he helped start the Econometric Society with other young people who shared his interests. He also started a journal called “Econometrica.” It gave people a much-needed place to talk about and show different economic issues.

In 1931, he started working at CBS and teaching statistics at the University of Amsterdam at the same time. Later in 1933, he moved to Rotterdam to work as an Associate Professor of Mathematics and Statistics at The Netherlands School of Economics. He stayed there until 1973.

In 1936, the League of Nations asked him to figure out which of Gottfried Haberler’s ideas about business cycles was more useful. So, he left CBS for two years and worked as a consultant for the League of Nations. He finished his job there in 1936.

As a consultant for the League of Nations, he looked at how the United States economy changed from 1919 to 1932. The work helped him build his theory of the business cycle and set rules for how the economy should grow.

“Business Cycles in the United States, 1919–1932,” a book about his work on the US, came out in 1939 from Geneva. In 1938, he published “Statistical Testing of Business Cycle,” which was also a very important work. Another important book from this time was “Econometrics,” which came out in 1941.

He left CBS in 1945, and on September 15, 1945, he started the Central Planning Bureau of the Netherlands and became its founding director. On April 21, 1947, it became legal because of what he did. It was and is a separate agency that the Dutch government pays for.

Until 1955, he worked for the Bureau. In the years after the Second World War, he did a lot to help the war-torn country recover and grow. For example, he made econometric models that the Dutch government used to plan its economy.

Even though he had a lot going on, he kept writing. “Business Cycles in the United Kingdom, 1870-1914” (1951), “On the Theory of Economic Policy” (1952), and “Centralization and Decentralization in Economic Policy” (1954) were all important books that came out during this time (1954).

From 1955 on, he focused on education. For one year, he was a guest professor at Harvard University. In 1956, he went back to The Netherlands School of Economics to keep teaching.

He used to teach a lot of different things, but after 1956, he mostly taught “Development Programming” and helped start the Econometric Institute in the same year. Another of his important works, “Economic Policy: Principles and Design,” came out in 1956 as well.

After 1955, he taught at The Netherlands School of Economics and worked as a consultant for the United Arab Republic, Turkey, Venezuela, Surinam, Indonesia, and Pakistan, among other places. Also, national and international groups like the European Coal and Steel Community, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and the United Nations Secretariat made him a consultant.

He was named Chairman of the UN Committee for Development Planning in 1965 and stayed in that position until 1972. During this time, he helped set up over twenty economics-related institutions in places like Turkey, India, and Chile.

He left The Netherlands School of Economics in 1973. After that, he focused on writing. He wrote “The Dynamics of Business Cycles: A Study in Economic Fluctuations” in 1974, “Income Distribution: Analysis and Policies” in 1975, “Economic Policy: Principles and Design” in 1978, “Warfare and Welfare” in 1987, and “World Security and Equity” in 1998. (1990).

In 1989, he became one of the first trustees of an organization called “Economists Against the Arms Race” (ECAAR), which is based in New York and is registered with the UN. Economists for Peace and Security is what it is called now.

His Works of note

One of his most important works is making large-scale economic models, which he did for the Netherlands for the first time in 1936. In it, he talked about the different parts of the economy and then showed how they all fit together mathematically. Later, the USA and the UK used the same model.

He is also known for being one of the first people to study modern economic dynamics. His contribution to making modern methods for predicting and forecasting the economy is still valued to this day. Jan.

Awards & Achievements

Tinbergen shared the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel in 1969 “for having developed and used dynamic models for the analysis of economic processes.” Ragnar Frisch, a Norwegian economist, was his fellow winner.

In 1967, the board of the Premium Erasmianum Foundation gave him the Erasmus Prize.
In 1960, the American Statistical Association and the International Institute of Social Studies both made him a Fellow. He was also a member of the International Academy of Science and the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Science.

He also got honorary doctorates from about twenty of the best schools in the world.

Personal History and Legacies

Little is known about Jan Tinbergen’s personal life, except that he was married to Tine Johanna de Wit and may have had four children. The family lived in a simple home in The Haviklaan, a middle-class area of The Hague.

He was a quiet man who never drove a car. Even after he won the Nobel Prize, he still took public transportation to work. He was interested in how the world’s economies were growing, but he also liked to draw, which was something his father taught him when he was a child.

Jan Tinbergen died of natural causes in The Hague on June 9, 1994. He was 91 years old.
He is remembered by the Tinbergen Institute, a place for research and education in economics, econometrics, and finance.

Estimated Net worth

According to Wikipedia, Forbes, IMDb, and other online sources, 116-year-old economist Jan Tinbergen is worth between $5 million.


Jan Tinbergen learned a lot of languages, but he didn’t do it to make friends. He went to all this trouble just to be able to talk to his coworkers in different parts of the world better.