GPT4 Explains Econometrics: "Rabies, Love & Choices: The Epistolary Journey of Ivy Roe Through the World of Dan McFadden and Discrete Choice Modeling"
Co-produced by GPT-4 (r) and Cunningham (r), prompts by Cunningham
One of my favorite novels as a college student was Fair and Tender Ladies by Lee Smith. It’s an epistolary novel, meaning it’s a collection of letters written by a girl named Ivy Rowe. She lives in Appalachian country, and we follow her from when she’s little to when she’s older, all told through stories. Me and my then best best friend, Paige, who became my wife of 20 years, bonded over our love for Ivy Rowe. God we loved Ivy Rowe. This summer, I gave Fair and Tender Ladies to my sweet girl, Willow, and by the mercy of the gods on Mount Olympus, she read it, and she also fell in love with Ivy Rowe. I think Ivy makes me remember this is a long story. And I like long stories.
This is an epistolary novel by Ivy Rowe to her friend Louisa about Ivy’s love for the microeconometrician Dan McFadden. She tries to help her friend Louisa, through letters, not just understand econometrics, but also her adoration of Dan McFadden, and her belief that discrete choice modeling can help us understand our place in the world. It involves rabies, love, and major career achievement awards. But mostly love and purpose and a dismissal of what we are told that the “dual body problem” means. It isn’t a problem. So buckle up friends. This is quite the adventure. And I’m sorry for those of you who aren’t a subscriber, but this one will eventually be as you read behind the paywall. :). As always, the prompts are at the end.
I hope this letter finds you well and in good spirits. I'm just a-burstin' with excitement, for I have recently come across the most amazin' man, a feller by the name of Daniel McFadden. He's an economist, you see, and my heart's all a-flutter thinkin' about the wonderful things he's done with numbers and such. It's like he's a magician of the mind, Louisa!
The way he talks about econometrics makes my heart race, like the way the sun races through the sky each day. I feel such a deep affection and admiration for this man, I reckon I could spend hours just listenin' to him speak. I know you might think me silly, but I can't help it. He's done so much to understand the world and how people make choices.
Daniel McFadden has shown me a whole new way of lookin' at the world, and I'm eager to learn all I can about him. I reckon I'd be right proud if I could grow up to be half the person he is. You know how I always dreamed of doin' somethin' important with my life, and now I believe that econometrics might be my path to greatness, just like it was for him.
I do so wish we could sit together under the shade of the old oak tree and discuss his work. But for now, I'll have to settle for these letters and share my admiration for this incredible man with you, my dearest friend. I can't wait to hear what you think about him!
Yours in awe and affection,
Scott's Substack is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
I'm so grateful that our correspondence has continued all these years. You've been a true friend and confidante, and I treasure our friendship more than anything. Today, though, somethin' happened at school that has left me upset, and I feel the need to share it with you.
We were all gathered in the schoolyard, and a group of older boys started teasin' me about my dreams of becomin' an economist. They laughed and said that girls like me would never amount to anythin'. Oh, Louisa, it hurt me so to hear those words, but then I thought of Daniel McFadden, and I felt a spark of hope within me.
You see, Dr. McFadden grew up in a rural part of North Carolina, not so different from where we live. Even though times were hard, he persevered and found his way to the prestigious University of Minnesota. It was there that he pursued his passion for economics, and by the age of 24, he completed his PhD, with the esteemed Leonid Hurwicz as his advisor. Can you imagine, Louisa, a young man from humble beginnings achievin' such great heights?
His dissertation was on "Factor Proportions, Commodity Trade, and the Heckscher-Ohlin Theorem," which examined the relationship between a country's resources and its trade patterns. Now, I don't understand everythin' about it just yet, but I know it was the start of his incredible journey in the world of econometrics.
So, when those boys laughed at me today, I thought of Dr. McFadden and how he proved that it doesn't matter where you come from, or what others think of you. What truly matters is the fire inside you and the determination to follow your dreams, no matter how far they may take you.
I hope this letter finds you well, my dearest friend. Remember, we are the masters of our own destinies, and just like Daniel McFadden, we can rise above the obstacles and become who we were meant to be.
Yours in strength and beauty,
I hope this letter finds you well, my dear friend. I'm afraid I have some distressin' news to share with you. My beloved dog, Daisy, has fallen terribly ill. You remember Daisy, don't you? We found her as a stray pup five years ago, wanderin' near the edge of our property. She's been a loyal companion ever since, always ready to lift our spirits with her waggin' tail and playful nature.
But now, she's listless and in pain, and it breaks my heart to see her sufferin'. I can't help but wish for a miracle, somethin' to ease her pain and bring her back to her old self.
In times like these, I find comfort in the stories of the people I admire, like Dr. Daniel McFadden. When he graduated from the University of Minnesota with his PhD, he was only 24 years old. Can you imagine that, Louisa?
As for his personal life, Dr. McFadden was married to a lovely lady named Beverlee Tito, and they shared four children together. I'm not certain about his religious beliefs, but I do know he had a great love for the outdoors, enjoyin' activities like backpackin' and birdwatchin'.
It was durin' his time at the University of Minnesota that he first came into contact with econometrics. Now, I reckon you might be wonderin' what econometrics is, and I'd be happy to explain. Econometrics is the application of mathematical and statistical methods to the study of economic data. It's like findin' the hidden patterns in numbers and usin' them to understand the world around us.
Dr. McFadden was drawn to this field in the early 1960s, and it was his passion for understandin' human behavior and decision-makin' that led him to make significant contributions to econometrics.
In these difficult times, I find solace in the stories of perseverance and determination, like Dr. McFadden's. It reminds me that even in the face of adversity, we can still find the strength to overcome our challenges.
I pray for Daisy's recovery, and I'll keep you updated, my dear friend. Thank you for bein' there for me, even from afar.
Yours in love and hope,
Time has surely flown, hasn't it? I'm now 15 years old, and life has taken quite a few interesting turns. Lately, I've been spendin' more time with friends, explorin' the woods, and listenin' to the newfangled music on the radio. And, Louisa, I think there might be a boy who's taken a shine to me. His name's Tommy, and he's always smilin' and chattin' with me whenever we cross paths. I can't be sure if it's love or just a friendly gesture, but it's excitin' nonetheless.
As for Daisy, she's been doin' much better, but I still worry about her from time to time. She's gettin' older, and I reckon it's only natural to be concerned for our loved ones as they age.
Now, let me share some more about Dr. Daniel McFadden, our favorite econometrician. After finishin' his studies in Minnesota, he started workin' as an assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh. It wasn't long before he began publishin' his first papers, some of which focused on topics like the demand for durables and the economic theory of consumer behavior.
His early work seemed to be well-received by his peers, and it wasn't long before he gained a reputation as a promisin' young econometrician. Dr. McFadden was known for his dedication and collaboration, workin' alongside some of the most influential figures in the field.
One of his main mentors was his former advisor, Leonid Hurwicz, who continued to provide guidance and support even after Dr. McFadden left the University of Minnesota. He also collaborated with other esteemed economists like Paul Samuelson and Kenneth Arrow, furtherin' his research and contributin' to the development of econometrics.
Dr. McFadden's first job at the University of Pittsburgh was an important step in his career. It provided him with the opportunity to refine his skills, expand his network, and lay the foundation for the amazin' work he would go on to accomplish in the years to come.
As I grow older, I continue to find inspiration in the life and achievements of Dr. Daniel McFadden. His story serves as a reminder that with hard work, dedication, and a little bit of faith, we can achieve great things.
Take care, my dear friend, and I'll be lookin' forward to our next exchange of letters.
Yours in growth and friendship,
I'm glad you asked about Paul Samuelson and Kenneth Arrow! Although their work may seem different from Dr. McFadden's at first glance, they are all interconnected in the world of economics.
You see, Paul Samuelson and Kenneth Arrow were both highly influential economists who focused on the more theoretical aspects of the field. Samuelson was known for his work on the foundations of economic analysis and welfare economics, while Arrow made significant contributions to the study of general equilibrium, uncertainty, and social choice theory.
Now, Dr. McFadden's work in microeconometrics might seem quite different, as it focuses on the empirical analysis of individual behavior and decision-making using statistical methods. However, this work is deeply connected to the theoretical foundations laid out by economists like Samuelson and Arrow.
Dr. McFadden's research often aimed to test and refine the theoretical models developed by these economists, helpin' to bridge the gap between abstract economic theory and real-world data. By applyin' econometric techniques to understand individual choices and preferences, McFadden was able to provide valuable insights into how these theoretical models functioned in practice.
In a way, you could say that Dr. McFadden, Paul Samuelson, and Kenneth Arrow were all workin' towards a common goal - to better understand the complex workings of the economy and improve our ability to make informed decisions.
I hope this helps clarify the connection between Dr. McFadden's microeconometrics work and the more theoretical contributions of Samuelson and Arrow. It's truly fascinatin' how these different branches of economics can come together to form a greater understanding of the world around us.
Take care, and I eagerly await your next letter, my dear friend.
Yours in wisdom and curiosity,
Your recent letter has left me wonderin' if perhaps you've developed a crush on Samuelson and Arrow, just as I've been admirin' Dr. McFadden all these years. But I must share some heartbreakin' news with you. My dear Daisy was bitten by a bat and contracted rabies. Despite my deepest wishes, she couldn't recover, and we had to put her down. It's been a difficult time, and I've been feelin' quite low.
I used to believe that with enough love and attention, anythin' could be healed. But, as my father explained, that's not how rabies works. Sometimes, life can be harsh and unforgivin', and we must learn to accept the things we cannot change.
Now, about your questions regardin' the interaction between Samuelson, Arrow, and McFadden before the internet era. You're right, Louisa - Arrow did work at Stanford, and Samuelson was at MIT. Despite the distance between them, they found ways to collaborate and share ideas.
In those days, communication was primarily through letters, phone calls, and occasional face-to-face meetin's at conferences or academic events. They would exchange drafts of their work, discuss ideas, and share feedback through the written word. I reckon there must have been somethin' quite special about receivin' a handwritten letter from a fellow econometrician, filled with thoughts and insights.
Dr. McFadden and his colleagues didn't have the luxury of instant communication like we do today, but they made the most of what they had. Their dedication to their work and their willingness to collaborate across vast distances is a testament to their passion for the field of econometrics.
As for discussin' numbers over the phone, I imagine it must have been quite a challenge. But with perseverance and patience, they managed to work together and contribute to our understandin' of economics.
It's remarkable to think about how far we've come since then, with all the technology at our fingertips today. Yet, the spirit of collaboration and the drive to explore new ideas remain the same.
Thank you for your continued curiosity, Louisa. I'm lookin' forward to hearin' your thoughts on this and sharin' more about the fascinatin' world of econometrics.
Yours in sadness and knowledge,
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to Scott's Substack to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.