Econometric Game 2010
From the 11th until the 13th of April 2010, Amsterdam was once again flooded with 125 gifted econometricians. The eleventh edition of the Econometric Game was yet another highly successful one. The selected 25 teams from three different continents were challenged to solve an interesting case on HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa. The program of the three-day event was enriched with the Econometric Game Congress on the last day.
The Econometric Game 2010 was officially opened by chairman Reinier Joustra. During the opening ceremony, dr. R.H.A. Plasterk (Dutch scientist and politician) and mr. E. Hato (ING) gave presentations, and dr. C.G.H. Diks (case maker and University of Amsterdam teacher) introduced the case topic. The teams spent the rest of the day doing research on the topic.
The second day, the teams started working at nine in the morning on the first case. Teams were given a dataset on AIDS prevalence and other characteristics in an unspecified African nation. At the end of the survey, each participant was given the choice of whether to have a free blood test for AIDS as well as other illnesses. The first case required an investigation into the modelling of the individual’s choices as to whether to take the free test for HIV. All teams had seven hours to complete the case study and write a report. After consideration, the expert jury named ten universities that were allowed to participate during the final day.
The ten finalists spent the third day working on a second case. The analysis focussed, amongst other things, on examining the interdependency of spousal decisions in determining whether the HIV test was taken. While the ten finalists worked hard to hand in a written report and prepare a verbal presentation of their results on time, the other fifteen teams could relax during a canal cruise through the canals of Amsterdam. In the afternoon, they attended the first edition of the Econometric Game Congress, together with the jury, University of Amsterdam students and other interested people. Speakers were prof. D.A. Jaeger (University of Cologne professor), prof. S.J.G. van Wijnbergen (University of Amsterdam professor) and mr. S. Noorda (chairman of the Association of Universities in the Netherlands). At the end of the congress, the ten finalists presented their results. The jury evaluated the written reports over dinner, and the award ceremony took place during a party at the Heeren van Aemstel. Chairman Reinier Joustra announced that the third and second place was won by Aarhus University and VU University Amsterdam respectively. But the team that would take home the trophy and named winner of the Econometric Game 2010 was Monash University!
The theme of the Econometric Game 2010 was the HIV/aids epidemic in Sub-Saharan Africa, which was a socially relevant theme. Worldwide there are about 40 million people infected with HIV, of which 25 million people are living in Sub-Saharan Africa. There are up to ten countries in which more than 10% of the inhabitants are infected. In four of these countries, this is even over 20%.
The consequences for people infected with HIV are huge, not only for themselves but also for their near environment. In the case of a household where the provider gets infected, the family has not only got to deal with the emotional problems, but also has to take care of the economic fallback caused by the inability to work as much after the infection. The epidemic also has great consequences on a macro level. If more people get infected with HIV, the productivity of a country will decrease and therefore the government will receive less taxes while the costs of social security rises. Furthermore, most of the people in Sub-Saharan Africa do not have health insurance, while the medical costs for treating the illness rise the longer someone is infected.
To improve this situation it is of great importance to investigate how to implement certain policies efficiently. Obviously, there has to be enough medicine for everyone, but this will not stop the further spread of the decease. To prevent this, it is crucial that the effects of getting infected are recognized by people considered to be in a group of risk and that the importance of testing for HIV is clear.
The assignment of the Econometric Game 2010 was to model the willingness to take part in a voluntary HIV test.
Casemakers and jury
After completing his PhD at the UvA in the area of the bootstrap, dr. Noud van Giersbergen worked for several years outside of academia. First, he was a researcher at Statistics Netherlands, but after a year he joined Watson Wyatt as an actuarial consultant. Finally, he returned to the UvA to teach and do research. Dr. Van Giersbergen says that he finds teaching very rewarding. Discovering new results in theoretical research can be very exciting, but over the years his research also includes empirical work. Although the results obtained by empirical analysis are less general than in theoretical theory, the conclusions can sometimes be of vital importance in practice.
Dr. Cees Diks says that the nice thing about having a background in time series analysis is that it can be applied in virtually any field. He has worked on various applications, including heart data (ECGs), brain data (EEGs) and hydrological data. He knows from experience that working on these data is peanuts compared to the challenges econometricians face when modelling economic or financial econometric data. The task to find structure in a ‘non-stationary sea of noise’ is often huge.
The jury for 2010 consists of prof. dr. C.T.M. Elbers, prof. D.A. Jaeger, dr. J.C.M. van Ophem, prof. M.P. Pradhan and prof. dr. S.J.G. van Wijnbergen. The case makers are also part of the jury.
Prof. dr. Chris Elbers studied econometrics and mathematical economics at the UvA and obtained his doctorate at VU University. Since 1984 he is a member of the Development Research Group and since 1994 he has been an associate professor at VU university. The Development Research Group focuses on applied microeconomic research in developing countries, in particular countries in Sub-Sahara Africa. Chris Elbers has investigated the fields of poverty measurement and impact evaluation.
Prof. David A. Jaeger received his BA from Williams College (1986), his MA (statistics, 1993) and PhD (economics, 1995) from the University of Michigan. In 1995, he was the first recipient of the W.E. Upjohn Institute Dissertation Award, and in 2003/2004 he received a fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt Stiftung. His research focuses on (im)migration, education, conflict, and applied econometrics. His work has been published in the American Economic Review, among others.
Dr. Hans van ophem is an associate professor in econometrics. His research interest lie in the field of applied microeconometrics where the applications are usually taken from labour economics and health economics.
Prof. Menno Pradhan is an economist and he received his PhD from Tilburg University. Since then he has worked at the VU University Amsterdam, Cornell University and the World Bank. He has investigated the effects of health insurance, social funds, teacher training and early childhood development interventions on human development outcomes. He also has investigated poverty more broadly, by including dimensions such as subjective poverty, health inequality and conflict.
Prof. dr. Sweder van Wijnbergen is professor of Economics at the UvA. He was professor at the London School of Economics until 1997 and Secretary General of the Ministry of Economic Affairs in the Netherlands until 2000. He received his masters in Physics in Utrecht (1975), in Econometrics in Rotterdam (1977) and his PhD in Economics (1980) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, USA. He has published broadly in the areas of international economics and public finance.
Reinier Joustra (Chairman)
Daan de Bruin (Coordinator)
Frank van Berkum
Ilona van Mechelen