In class our professor said that the Rogoff and Reinhart research on growth and debt was discredited due to spreadsheet mistake. What was this mistake? Also did they perform their research in excel instead of R, stata or some other advanced program?
Reinhart and Rogoff (2010, RR) claimed that GDP growth is much lower when debt/GDP > 90%.
Herndon, Ash, and Pollin (2014, PDF, HAP) placed their errors into four categories:
Errors #1 and #2 are clear cut (and may be fairly characterized as "Excel spreadsheet errors").
Errors #3 and #4 are a little more subjective.
(Neither RR nor HAP state the program used. But as reported in e.g. NYMag, following repeated requests from Herndon, Reinhart emailed to Herndon an Excel file and it was in this file that Herndon discovered errors.)
Correct answer by Kenny LJ on August 21, 2020
The paper by Herndon et al. shows that there were "coding errors, selective exclusion of available data, and unconventional weighting of summary statistics". So it's a little deeper than a mere "spreadsheet error" and isn't software-specific, but the term makes good press. Herndon was interviewed on the Colbert Report and I believe that may be where the paper got popularly associated with that term.
Answered by Brian Z on August 21, 2020
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