Econometric Game 2012


On the 17th, 18th and 19th of April 2012, the study association for Actuarial Science, Econometrics and Operational Research and Management (VSAE) of the University of Amsterdam was host for the Econometric Game. Students from all over the world worked on a socially relevant and econometrically challenging case during this unique three day competition in Econometrics.

The first day

Tuesday morning, the 17th of April 2012. After an early morning filled with preparations, the already exhausted committee looks upon 200 interested students, professors, anxious participants and speakers of the opening congress of the Econometric Game. De Duif, a former church idyllically located at the waterfront of one of Amsterdam’s famous canals has been fully redecorated into an Econometric Game location. The contestants are welcomed to the Econometric Game by the chairman of the committee, have their academic prospects addressed by the dean of the University of Amsterdam, and are introduced to ING by Mark Vermeule. Afterwards a presentation is given by João Santos Silva to outline the expectations of the casemakers and jury and explain the case in more detail. The coming three days, the participants will focus on the effect of maternal smoking during pregnancy on infants’ birthweight. After a lunch-break, the Econometric Game starts in a large exam room at the University grounds. Teams have until 17:00h to do preliminary research after which they are introduced to other teams, ING employees, former participants and committee members during drinks and diner.

The second day

Wednesday the 18th all teams start at 09:00h on the first case round. They are given the dataset, exact case questions and concise explanations on the dataset and regulations. They are given until 18:00h to work on their report. Punctually, the committee will gather all case solutions and hand them over to the jury consisting of 6 professors from all over Europe that have their expertise on the case’s topic and the methodologies used. Of course the temperature rose steadily as the clock ticked onwards, but all Universities were able to hand in complete reports before the deadline. While the jury discussed all anonymous case solutions in order to pick the best 10 reports, the teams were introduced to Amsterdam’s café-life in anticipation of their judgment. Around eleven, Santos Silva joined the 150 nervous students with ten numbers which corresponded to the ten finalists. Unfortunately, the national pride of the committee had no impact on the juries decisions and none of the Dutch Universities made it to the final.

The final

After long evaluations with the non-finalists, Thursday the 19th seemed to start even earlier than the other days. Finalists started at 09:00h again to work on a second case. They were given a new dataset and asked to prepare both a written report and a 5 minute presentation on their solution. In the meantime, non-finalists took a scenic canal tour and had lunch on the Marie Heinekenplein with students from the University of Amsterdam and ING employees. After lunch they were escorted to De Duif where an econometric congress was hosted to highlight the methodologies used in this year’s edition and the social aspect of the econometric game. At 17:00h the finalists joined the congress to present their case solutions according to the semi-anonymously system of numbers. Afterwards all participants, clearly exhausted from three long days were dragged along for drinks, diner and more drinks, while the jury retired to a local restaurant to discuss the 10 case solutions. Around midnight Geert Dhaene and João Santos Silva joined us at the Amstelhaven with the top three. While tension increased among all finalists and the large group of students that came over to watch the ceremony. The Econometric Game ended with a Danish lesson in econometrics, as the University of Copenhagen won the competition and is crowned best University in Econometrics among students for the coming year. Second was the also Danish Aarhus University followed by first-time participant Harvard University who came third. Jeroen Potjes congratulated all teams with their participation on behalf of ING and with some final words of the casemakers and the introduction of the chairman of the next edition of the Econometric Game; i.e. Mara Laboyrie, the Econometric Game was officially over. ING and the VSAE can look back at an amazing successful edition. The growth of the Econometric Game is admirable and next year’s committee, who already dedicated themselves to helping the past three days, are well aware of this and will surely contribute to even further developing the Econometric Game.


The theme of the Econometric Game 2012 was how maternal smoking affects infants’ birth weight during pregnancy.

Birthweight is a leading indicator of infant health and adverse birth outcomes are known to have large costs, both in the form of direct medical costs and in terms of long-term developmental consequences. For example, it has been shown that low birthweight babies have higher mortality rates, developmental problems in cognition and attention that persist until adolescence, and later in life are also more likely to be unemployed and earn lower wages. For more details, see Abrevaya, J., and Dahl, C.M. (2008), “The ef­fects of birth inputs on birthweight: evidence from quantile estimation on panel data,” Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, 26, 379–397.

It is, therefore, interesting and important to study the factors affecting infants’ birthweight and, in particu­lar, to study how maternal behaviour influences birth outcomes. This problem is used as the backdrop for the Econometric Game 2012, which is based on a dataset containing information about newborns (including their birthweight), the mothers (including their smoking behaviour), and the pregnancies. The purpose of the exercise is to assess the effects of maternal smoking behaviour on infants’ birthweight. This will require the deployment of a wide array of econometric tools and the task is fraught with the usual difficulties of applied econometrics.

Description of the case:
Econometric Game 2012 Case A

Econometric Game 2012 Case B

Casemakers and jury

The case makers in 2012 were prof. dr. G. Dhaene and prof. dr. J.M.C. Santos Silva.

Geert Dhaene is professor of econometrics at KU Leuven. He obtained his PhD from KU Leuven in 1993, het then went on to become a Human Capital and Mobi­lity Fellow at Erasmus University Rotterdam and a post-doctoral researcher at FWO (Belgian Sci­ence Foundation). He taught at the University of Mons-Hainaut and Ghent University before retur­ning to KU Leuven in 2001. He contributed to the theory of model encompassing. Currently his main interest is microeconometrics, in particu­lar bias reduction methods for nonlinear panel models with unobserved heterogeneity. He has published in econometrics, economics and sta­tistics journals, including Econometrica, Journal of Applied Econometrics, Games and Economic Behavior, Health Economics and Journal of Multi­variate Analysis.

João Santos Silva is professor at the Economics Department of the University of Essex since Ja­nuary 2007. He obtained his PhD at the University of Bristol in 1992, het then went on to become a Human Capital and Mobility Fellow at the University College Lon­don and he taught at the Technical University of Lis­bon. He is best known for his “Log of Gravity” pa­per on the econometrics of gravity equations for trade. He has contributed to various other topics and he has published in a variety of academic journals, including the Review of Economic Stu­dies, Journal of the American Statistical Associa­tion, Review of Economics and Statistics, Journal of Econometrics, and the Journal of Business and Economics Statistics.

The jury consists of prof. T. Bago d’Uva, prof. J. Kiviet, prof. B van der Klaauw and prof. T. Wansbeek. The case makers are also part of the jury.

Teresa Bago d’Uva is an Associate Professor at the Erasmus School of Economics. She obtained her BSc (Mathematics Ap­plied to Economics and Management) and her MSc (Actuarial Sciences) at the Technical University of Lisbon, and her PhD (Economics) at the University of York. Her areas of interest are applied microeconometrics and health economics, and her re­cent research has focused on measurement of biases in self-reported health and inequalities in health and health care.

Jan Kiviet started as a student in econometrics at the University of Amsterdam in 1966, where he obtained his PhD in 1987 and was appointed a full professor of econometrics in 1989. He became an elected member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sci­ences in 2009. Since 2011 his UvA affiliation is 25% and his major occupation is at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. His research focuses on improving econometric inference for dynamic simultaneous relationships, especially for panel data models.

Bas van der Klaauw is a professor of economics at the VU Uni­versity Amsterdam. He studied econometrics and obtained his PhD discussing empirical analyses dealing with unemploy­ment. His current research deals with the estimation of causal effects of policy interventions applied to labor, education and health. Bas van der Klaauw teaches applied microeconome­trics in the MPhil programma at Tinbergen Institute.

Tom Wansbeek is Professor of Statistics and Econometrics and former Dean at the University of Groningen. He obtained his MSc in Econometrics from the University of Amsterdam (1972). Af­ter his PhD from the University of Leiden (1980) he has worked with the Netherlands Central Bureau of Statistics, the University of Southern California and the University of Amsterdam. He has published in econometrics (panel data models, measurement error and latent variables), linear algebra and marketing.


The top 3 of the Econometric Game 2012 were:

  1. University of Copenhagen
  2. Aarhus University
  3. Harvard University (Case ACase B)



From left to right: Jesse Verheijen, Daan Besamusca, Myrna Hennequin, Misaël, Milan Schinkelshoek, Mara Laboyrie and Kees Ouboter