The 1990-91 Recession

The NBER BCDC memo and the data.

Final, revised data regarding the lead-up to peak, and after:

Figure 1: Nonfarm payroll employment (blue), industrial production (red), real manufacturing and trade sales (green), and real personal income ex.-transfers (black), all in logs normalized to 1989M07=0. Dashed line at 1989M07. NBER defined recession dates shaded gray. Source: FRED, NBER, and author’s calculations.

NFP peaks in 1990M06, industrial production in 1990M09, manufacturing and trade sales in 1990M08, and personal income excluding transfers in 1990M07.

From NBER, commenting using data available as of April 25, 1991:

CAMBRIDGE, April 25 – The Business Cycle Dating Committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research reached the judgment today that the peak of U.S. economic activity occurred in July 1990. The current U.S. recession thus began in July 1990, in the committee’s view.

The committee noted that the various indicators of economic activity normally used to determine the month of the business cycle peak were generally flat during the summer of 1990. Each of the major indicators reached a peak in a different month. During the summer, the month-to-month changes in these indicators were small.

Nonfarm payroll employment reached a peak in June. Real personal income peaked in July. Real manufacturing and trade sales pealced in August. The index of industrial production peaked in September.

As to the cause, well the Fed funds rate peaks in 1989M03, while oil prices only exceed the prior peak in 1990M08.

Figure 2: Fed funds rate, % (dark blue, left scale), and oil price ber barrel, $ (pink, right scale). Dashed line at 1989M07. NBER defined recession dates shaded gray. Source: FRED, and NBER.

59 thoughts on “The 1990-91 Recession

  1. Moses Herzog

    This graph I think presents a nearly ideal example of the importance of education. When Professor Menzie Chinn looks at this, he probably hardly gives it a 2nd thought, as the graph accurately and very well correctly presents the point he is trying to make, and 100% succeeds in making: “NO, oil was not the reason for the recession, the recession was already well underway”. But to the novice, those who have not taken a couple economics classes, the red line jumping in that gray area will nearly literally scream to them (at least scream in their internal mental voice) that the reason for the recession is increased oil prices.

    In fact, I could very easily and conceivably imagine this EXACT graph being used on FOX Business News to “prove” oil prices created the recession, with Larry Kudlow as that day’s FOX Business News studio guest.

    This is also “Exhibit A” on why it has been excruciatingly difficult for me to believe “Princeton”Kopits has anything farther up than an Associate degree at a low level school as his education attainment.

    1. pgl

      “But to the novice, those who have not taken a couple economics classes”.

      Hmmm – I wonder who you were thinking about here!

  2. 2slugbaits

    It’s interesting that the Fed essentially left the FFR alone through most of 1990, so evidently the Fed must have thought that the economy had weathered whatever shock caused it to start lowering rates in Mar 1989 and again in Dec 1989.

    the various indicators of economic activity normally used to determine the month of the business cycle peak were generally flat during the summer of 1990.

    I’m not fluent in NBER-Speak, but to me “flat” means neither rising nor falling, so it’s not clear to me that the data tells us whether or not a recession was inevitable absent the Gulf War. But it seems clear enough that the Gulf War could have been the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.

  3. AS

    Professor Chinn,
    On August 13, 2016 Professor Hamilton posted an entry concerning the Hodrick-Prescott filter, in which he demonstrated how to find the cyclical component of PAYEMS. It looks like there was a peak in a cycle during 1989Q1. Should this have alerted us that a recession was forming? One confusing aspect of the cyclical chart is that there seems to have been a false cyclical peak about 1985Q1. Any comments would be helpful to understand the information presented in these cyclical curves.

  4. Barkley Rosser

    I am partially backing off my claim that what Menzie shows supports my view. NBER says the recession staarted in July 1990, which was what I focused on. As it is, different parts of the economy went negative at different points. Monetary policy had turned stimulative, but we also know that effects of monetary policy hit with a lag, so the earlier tight monetary policy may have been contributing to the weakening. As I originally noted, the oil pirice shock aggravated the recession. I accept that without it the downturn may have been too weak and too short for the whole episide to qualify as a recession.

    1. Steven Kopits

      That’s not what the NBER is saying, Barkley! They are not saying that the recession started in July. They are saying that July was the peak of the previous cycle: July (through July 31) > June. August is the first month of the recession by the NBER’s own dating: August (1-31) < July (1-31).

      More below.

      1. Barkley Rosserr

        NBER included July 1990 as part of the recession, its first month, even though GDP was not clearly declining then. Do keep in imnd that their judgments are bsed on multiple factors, with employment very important, and that was already declining in July. In 2007-08 they simliarly had the recession strarting when emplyment began to fall, even though GDP was still rising.

  5. Barkley Rosser

    On the matter of the oil price shock, note that while toil prices exceeded “the prvious peak” during August, that previous peak was only at the beginning of 1990, not all tha high. Walsh claims that the more immidiate impact of the rise in oil prices was not on aggregatedd supply but on a loss of consumer and business confidence associated with the rising oil prices, which is not the standard mechanism.

    1. pgl

      Glad you have read Walsh’s paper as it is quite informative. Now if we can get Princeton Steve to cease his twitter rants and read the same paper.

  6. Moses Herzog

    Well. I’ve come up with many not very original nicknames for donald trump. At least one I stole actually (“the VSG” from Paul Krugman). Mostly because I am NEVER calling him our _________. So how about another unoriginal name?? donald “the unindicted felony criminal” trump??

    1. dilbert dogbert

      I am cogitating that the current person in the oval office should not be called names in the media. It authorizes him to do the same and he is good at it and has a very large megaphone in FUX SNooze. I propose the media should always say: The White House Tweeted this morning or the President made a statement this morning. I think he loves to see or hear his name in the news. So don’t let him see or hear his name in the media.
      Us groundlings can do as we wish.

  7. pgl

    A few points here. The official dating for the beginning of the recession and the subsequent recovery may have been a short interval, the lasting depressing effect on employment relative to population lasted through the elections in Nov. 1992. Guess why Bush41 did not win reelection.

    Yes – the Federal Funds rate came down off its high but it was still high. And take a look at the interest rate on long-term corporate bonds with credit rating BBB – quite high. And I would use this as a measure for what business investment decisions are made on.

    Finally, take a look at the components of aggregate demand which I did under the prior thread. This fell and stayed low through the rest of Bush41’s term.

    Anyone who thinks that the recession was a minor and temporary blip solely caused by a temporary spike in oil prices has no business commenting on macroeconomics. None at all.

  8. pgl

    Moody’s Seasoned Baa Corporate Bond Yield (BAA)

    Notice that this rate went above 10% in early 1990 and did not fall below 10% until the spring of 1991. Princeton Steve has argued that monetary policy could not have been a factor in this recession as the FED funds rate was creeping downwards from its previous peak. Seriously?! Notice that the rate in our FRED graph was rising even as the recession started.

    Of course Princeton Steve has not yet bothered to look at what happened in investment demand during this period.

    1. Steven Kopits

      The corporate bond yield rose after the start of the recession. It would certainly be an exacerbating factor, but not a cause.

      1. pgl

        Tight money is not a cause. High borrowing cost is not a cause. The only causal factor is higher oil prices. The great Princeton Steve has spoketh! LORD – what utter stupidity!

  9. pgl

    A short but instructive account of the 1990 recession:

    Yes in the midst of a lot of other things we see “Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in the summer of 1990. The latter drove up the world price of oil, decreased consumer confidence, and exacerbated the downturn that was already underway.”

    But note it also talks about the Federal Reserve raising interest rates. But it goes much further noting the 1987 stock market crash as well as the S&L crisis. In fact its opening summary read:

    “The recession of the early 1990s lasted from July 1990 to March 1991. It was the largest recession since that of the early 1980s and contributed to George H.W. Bush’s re-election defeat in 1992. Although mainly attributable to the workings of the business cycle and restrictive monetary policy, the 1990-91 recession demonstrated the growing importance of financial markets to the American and world economies.”

    It closed with:

    “Although the National Bureau of Economic Research has concluded that the early 1990s recession lasted just eight months, conditions improved slowly thereafter, with unemployment reaching almost 8% as late as June 1992. The sluggish recovery was a key factor in George H.W. Bush’s defeat for re-election to the U.S. presidency in November 1992.”

    But nah – this was a short lived recession attributable solely to some temporary spike in oil prices according to Mr. Magoo.

  10. dwb

    I am not really sure what the relevance of the oil price is. Inflation without food and energy was still relatively high in the late 80s, running at 4-5%.

    As far as the Fed Funds rate, what matters more is the real Fed funds rate, say Fed funds – year over year PCE price index. The Fed (intentionally) kept the real Fed Funds rate high in the late 80s in order to disinflate the economy. FOMC was more than happy to tolerate a recession in order to tamp down inflation.

    1. pgl

      Well said! I would just add a full analysis would look at other interest rates such as the interest rate on long-term corporate bonds with rating = BBB. They kept rising even after the economy reached that little peak.

  11. Steven Kopits

    In general, the oil guys will contend that all the post-WW II recessions were preceded or accompanied by an oil price shock, with the exception of the bust of 2001 (although even here one might make the argument).

    The odd man out in this thesis is the 1990 – 1991 recession, for exactly the reason Figure 2 above shows: the price shock appears to occur subsequent to the start of the recession. Thus, while the oil price could have exacerbated the recession, it cannot be the proximate cause, if this is the case.

    Now, the historical record suggests that oil shocks can take down an economy with incredible speed, within 30 days (see page 11,, so we do not have to take into account material lags for large shocks.

    In the case for the 1990 recession, the debate comes down to thirty days: Did the recession start in July, or in August?

    As NBER dating and Figure 1 above shows, for most indicators, July was higher than June. Because July means July 1-31, on aggregate, July was an expansionary month. It does not mark the beginning of the recession, but rather the end of the expansion. This is true both in NBER nomenclature and for all of manufacturing and trade sales, personal income and industrial production. The lone exception is non-farm payroll which peaked in May or June, but was essentially indistinguishable from these levels in July.

    Thus, by most metrics, the recession starts in August, not July.

    This matters, because oil price increases started on July 13th, but really took off after August 2 when Iraq invaded Kuwait. In August, oil prices averaged 76% over the first half of July. In percentage terms, it would be the equivalent of Brent moving up to $125 / barrel to this coming January. That would pin back a few ears, I would think.

    The 1990 recession is peculiar in other ways. For example, most oil shocks are preceded by strong demand and dwindling spare capacity and / or by major global inflection points, eg, the peaking of US oil production in 1970, the Iran-Iraq War in 1980, and the rise of China after 2004. Thus, most oil shocks see a narrative of increasing prices over a period of time, consummated by a spike usually related to an outage (with the exception of 2008, which was a pure demand shock).

    This is not true in 1990. Because of 1980-1983 OPEC strategy, the world had plenty of spare capacity from 1984 until 2004 (the Great Moderation), and this included 1990 and 1991. Moreover, demand growth was more muted than it had been since the 1960s. There is no real upward oil price trend prior to the Invasion of Kuwait, at least for the prior three years. The 1990 price shock really appears as a blip in the historical record. It comes from nowhere and goes nowhere. Therefore the narrative is rather different from, say, either of the two shocks in the 1970s or the two shocks in the 2005-2014 period.

    The 1990 oil shock also fails two common tests: the percent of GDP test and Jim’s inoculation test, as nominal oil prices were actually a bit higher in 1980.

    Notwithstanding, the 1990 oil shock certainly meets the percent increase test, and if we move the start of the recession to August, rather than July, then we are looking at an easily explained, oil price shock induced recession.

    This is not to say that all was rosy with the economy before the downturn. The Fed had indeed tried to take some air out of the economy in 1989 and economic performance was not particularly stunning before the downturn. However, the proximate cause of the downturn, if we allow that the recession started in August, rather than July, can easily be attributed to oil prices.

    1. pgl

      “Thus, while the oil price could have exacerbated the recession, it cannot be the proximate cause”. Are there two Princeton Steves? You just contradicted the other one and like Gilligan have started echoing what the rest of us have been saying!

    2. pgl

      Dr. Hamilton’s paper is interesting. You should read it. Bottom of page 18 states that the 1990/91 recession started in July 1990. What Barkley said.

      He also does not rule out other factors such as monetary policy and that tax increase.

      Why don’t you take a new tact – READ what others have said before your next pointless angry tweet.

    3. Barkley Rosser


      You can make all the judgments you want about which metrics are more important than which, but the NBER has iJuly 1990 as the first part month of the recession, as I initially said. As noted above, NBER views non-farm payroll as an especially important variable, and it was clearly falling in July, 1990. Deal with it.

        1. pgl

          You have to be kidding. I guess plain English is too difficult for the mighty Princeton Steve! Please stop embarrassing your poor mother.

        2. Barkley Rosser

          The language is that it began in July, 1990 and ended in March, 1991. There is another variable not in Menzie’s post that the NBER says they look at, retails sales. Indeed, they list four variables, real GDP, industrial production, employment, and retail sales. Those are the ones they use. As it was, retail sales peaked in May, 1990 and were declining in both Jne and July. employment was also declining in July. Real GDP peaked in July, while industrial production peaked a month later.

        3. Menzie Chinn Post author

          Steven Kopits: From the NBER press release I cited and linked to in the post:

          Nonfarm payroll employment reached a peak in June. Real personal income peaked in July. Real manufacturing and trade sales pealced in August. The index of industrial production peaked in September.

          NFP is the first variable cited; using the data series we have now, as of July 1990 NFP was declining. I have on numerous occassions noted that these are the four key variables that the NBER BCDC focuses on, of which NFP is the most important.

          1. 2slugbaits

            I think the interesting (albeit academic) question is whether or not the already wobbly economy would have slipped into a full-blown recession if Saddam hadn’t sabre rattled in Jul 1990 and invaded Kuwait in Aug 1990. Maybe some kind of probit model to predict the probability of a recession given where the four key NBER variables were in Jul 1990. Was a recession already 80% baked in the cake? Or 50%? Or only 25%? Seems like the kind of thing that some young enterprising grad student might have tackled at one time or another.

          2. Barkley Rosser

            Menzie certainly has the press release from NBER in April, 1991, which I guess is definitive. However, here are some curious tidbits. At we have that “…a recession is a significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy, lasting more than a few months, nomally visible in real GDP, real income, employment, industrial productin, and wholesale-retail treade.”

            Now what is in Menzie’s graph is personal income, but if one looks at median real houslehol income as shown att one finds this declining from some point in 1989 all the way into 1993, with a particularly sharp drop starting a few months before the 1990-91 recession, with that sharp decline ending with the end of the recession.

            I am not sure about wholesale-retail trae, but from that shows monthly numbers for retail trade in millions of dollars. They are for May 1990 $158,291 for June $157,868 abd fir July $153,321. So retail sales were declining from May.

            Needless to say what one says about whether the US economy was in recession in July 1990 or not, the real median householf income sotry does show a major reason why George H.W. Bush did not get reelected in 1992.

  12. FAKAZA2018

    Walsh claims that the more immidiate impact of the rise in oil prices was not on aggregatedd supply but on a loss of consumer and business confidence associated with the rising oil prices, which is not the standard mechanism.

    1. Steven Kopits

      I recall this loss of confidence, and it probably played some role. The question is how much. It’s somewhat amorphous, and making that case is leaning hard on a vague notion. It certainly supports the oil thesis, but one is left with less than compelling argumentation.

      On the other hand, the oil price is entirely tangible, specific and documented, and if we accept August 1 as the start of the recession (just as NBER asserts), then that’s all we need for a compact, well-defined oil shock.

  13. pgl

    I tried to bring up the slow recovery of the employment to population ratio in this discussion where I’m not listening Princeton Steve keeps saying the 1990/91 recession was short lived and caused by some temporary blip in oil prices (like monetary policy was not an issue here). Maybe this graph of the unemployment rate can dispel any idiotic notion that this was a short lived shortfall in aggregate demand:

    Before the recession, the unemployment rate was 5.2%. The unemployment rate continued to rise even after the official date of end of this recession. Yes the economy stayed far below full employment for a long time. In fact the unemployment rate did not get back to 5.2% until the fall of 1996!

    And yet Princeton Steve has his panties above this waste as to whether this started in July or August 1990. I guess in his little shop the big picture is never to be considered!

  14. Moses Herzog

    Off-topic, can’t resist
    Many people are missing the REAL point here. It is not taking the DNA test or making the DNA test public that is the problem. In fact, if not for being late to take the DNA test and late to make it public, Warren should be lauded for it.

    Senator Warren missed that chance, for the sake of trying to weasel out of her original LIE on an employment application. She still has a chance to make this right. but she has the same exact problem as Hillary Clinton. A Super-Sized Ego and inability to say what amounts to about 5 words: “I was wrong. I apologize. I regret a poor decision I made in the very fierce competition to get a university teaching job”. Now, as every day goes by, the stalling to do what she should do, makes the public admission and apology more difficult and more difficult and more difficult to make, and as it gets closer to 2020 it looks more like the Jimmy Swaggart version of apologies “I’m sorry, I’m very very sorry I GOT CAUGHT. I’m so so so very deeply sorry I got caught“. It comes off as empty and hollow. The time do do that was when she made the DNA test public. Now she’s making the lie worse by telling unbelievable Disneyland fairy tales about her relatives being “the Capulets and the Montagues” which is nothing but a laugh-riot to anyone with a functioning brain and is going to make the “Pocahontas” barb look like a love note.

    My advice to her, is on the first Session of the U.S. Senate after the new Democratic House officially takes their seats she make the apology on the Senate floor. Effusive and genuine as her gargantuan ego can muster. Rip the band aid off and get it DONE or say goodbye to your 2020 hopes. Because they go down the drain if she doesn’t.

  15. Moses Herzog

    I guess if illegal immigrants are willing to make donald trump’s bed and clean up donald trump’s toilet for nothing, they really are cool people and “acceptable” to donald trump. The important thing is that “the rapists and murderers” are willing to clean trump’s toilet for nothing, and only then trump thinks these people “really rock!!!!” Maybe we could have a litmus test at the border for the immigrants in the caravan near San Diego “Uuuuuuhh, are you willing to clean donald trump’s toilet and make his bed for nothing??? Careful how you answer, as it may effect your immigration status.”

  16. Moses Herzog

    Here’s another good one. Brought to you by the Republican party. That’s the same Republican party that is always so “concerned” about how votes are counted and tabulated. Imagine how this one plays out if Republicans have leadership of the House of Representatives?? Because I’m here to tell the “Princeton”Kopits, the PeakIgnorances, the Ed Hansons, and the CoRevs, if Kevin McCarthy was calling the shots in the House of Reps, this absentee ballot voter fraud would ALREADY be “yesterdays’s news”

  17. Moses Herzog

    Related to the NYT article written by Astead W. Herndon, some regular readers of this blog who site the website “Quora” to make really poorly structured arguments, may find the following quote from Mr. Herndon’s article interesting:

    “when The Herald reported that Harvard had once identified her as a member of a minority group when she was a law professor there. The Warren campaign at the time also confirmed she had listed herself as a minority member in a legal directory, ”

    The regular reader of this blog who enjoys siting “Quora” for his arguments might also find this lifted quote from Herndon’s writing interesting, the last part is from the person Warren paid to do the DNA test, who is highly regarded in his field:
    “Ms. Warren’s DNA test, which was conducted by the renowned geneticist Carlos Bustamante and released by her office, showed strong evidence that Ms. Warren has Native American pedigree ‘6-10 generations ago.’ ”

    I guess that explains why you can’t find a single photo of either of Warren’s parents wearing traditional Native American clothes (or her grandparents?? I don’t know), even though Warren tells this “Capulets and Montagues” Disney animation film plot about her parents’ marriage when she gets pressed on why she identified herself as such.

    1. Barkley Rosser


      First of all, you really should just stop making all these off-topic comments. Menzie does not ban you from doing so, but do you really think he welcomes this stuff?

      Second, you are really sick on this Warren stuff. You falsely accuse Warren of putting a “LIE” on an employment app, but provide no evidence of that. You make a statement about her status in a legal directory, claiming it is in the article you cite. It is not. You are the one who is lying. As it was about the time there began to be publicity about her status at Harvard, she removed her name from that directory.

      Clearly she has handled this poorly from a political perspective, losing supporters among minorities and activitists, while not shutting down the racists mocking her as “Pocahontas.” Let me repeat I am not a supporter of her presidential candidacy, although I respect much of her work in the Senate, so my pointing out how full of lying crap you ae on this is not part of some effort to puff her prez candidacy. I strongly suggest you just stop posting on this, especisally since you seem to be obsesesd, using blodened capital lletters for outright false statements. This is just sick, Moses, sick. Also shameful and disgusting. Clean up your act, please.

      1. pgl

        Maybe it is time for Senator Sanders to declare that he is ““sick and tired of hearing about your damn DNA”.

        Of course some Republicans in the House released some 200 plus page testimony from James Comey that showed they are still stuck on those damn emails.

        OK back to our regularly scheduled discussions of Bill and Monica!

      2. Moses Herzog

        @ Barkley Junior
        Do I think Menzie welcomes my off-topic comments?? I think he most likely “tolerates” it, leaning towards wishing I didn’t. But I would also say this, he can probably stomach it better than people who get things factually wrong (of which I include you, although I’ll begrudgingly give you that you are one of the lesser transgressors here), people who get economic theory wrong (which is also quite common here in the comments portion of the blog). I also venture to say Menzie would tolerate off-topic comments better than people siting “Quora” as a reliable source, or people who defend public officials who LIE on employment applications. I also venture to say (though I do not “know”) that as a man who has faced REAL racial bigotry most of his life and has “savored” the zesty flavors thereof, Menzie might be as bothered as me or more so, by a white woman with .09% Native American blood (literally less than 1/1000th) running around filling out employment forms for highly desired university jobs and legal directories telling people she is of “Native American” ancestry.

        The fact Barkley Junior thinks Warren taking her LIE out of a directory after the fact she has gotten the highly desirable university job she was chasing, and took her name out after she foresaw she would be rightly skewered for it, is some “heroic” act on her part, pretty much explains how well Barkley Junior’s mind “functions”.

        I would also add, that I do not “know” it for a fact, but I venture to guess Menzie might be more bored with his own blog than even he imagines, if people only limited themselves to the posted topics. Though I do not know that last sentence for a fact.

        1. Menzie Chinn Post author

          I say: Let he/she who has not misunderstood or failed to be informed about one’s family tree and/or history cast the first stone.

          In other words, in my experience, and reading of other people’s experiences, there is lots of misinformation or gaps in knowledge when it comes to one’s own family. Sometimes it’s because one has not paid close attention as a teenager to parents’ stories. Sometimes, it’s because some things are not discussed because they are not pleasant topics.

          So I’m willing to cut folks some slack here.

          On the other hand, if you mis-characterize your academic and/or job history, then you should have a ton of bricks fall on you (e.g., I was at the top of my class, I have the best words, etc.)

          1. Moses Herzog

            @ 2slugbaits
            Just checked in the mirror and felt profusely with my hands. I have no horns. And very little hair. Was actually hoping some hair had cropped up towards the forehead area since the last time checked.

            Fact checks are awesome if you can tell me anything in this thread where I said anything factually false. With the exception of taking pretty broad liberty in guessing Menzie’s thoughts on the topic (which was a subjective comment on my part), you’re gonna have to look hard on that.

            What I think is humorous is imagining what the reaction would be from leftward leaning parties on this blog (of which I include myself one) if this same LIE had been committed by a Mitch McConnell, a Paul Ryan, a Newt Gingrich, a John Cornyn, or a Lindsey Graham, etc etc……

            I am a very proud Democrat, I have made that quite excruciatingly clear over the months (years??) I have commented on this blog. The problem (generally) for the leftward leaning members of this blog appears to be, I hold Senator Warren to the same measuring stick I would John Cornyn if the same exact story had appeared about him LYING to get advantage in employment/job efforts.
            And It makes me slightly sad that appears to be a personal problem for some of you in holding different people to different standards. That’s a pity.

            @ Menzie I agree with you on the sometimes haziness of the family history or haziness of the genealogical tree.

            My Dad rarely talked about family with me. I think it is because some things he had rather not talked about because his father was a philanderer (who died before I was born). My father strongly suspected (if not knew) he was a “bastard” child, and “relations” were not great on that front—add in some German stoicism on exterior show of emotions, and it makes for a lot of “mystery”. Other than an informal family tree my father’s sister did, not a lot there—and I’m not sending off for the lab report. I have the “gist” and for me it’s enough. Other than turning this into narcissistic blathering on my part, what does that mean?? It means I am semi-sympathetic to the thought that these things may not be exactly clear. All I can say, is that in Warren’s case—that’s a “tough sell” for me. Actually, it’s a “no sell” for me. If you buy Warren’s story, I can respect it, it’s a reasonable opinion I guess, and you have better faith in the inherent goodness of humanity than I do to think Warren didn’t put that down 98% motivated by the pragmatic goal to obtain advantage.

          2. 2slugbaits

            Moses My understanding is that Warren claimed her family’s oral history said there was Native American ancestry from sometime around the mid-19th century. The DNA tests support that claim. Whether or not that should entitle her to claim anything beyond that is another question entirely. Claiming Native American ancestry for Affirmative Action purposes generally depends upon how distant one’s ancestor is. Very often the cutoff is one-sixteenth. I don’t find it at all unlikely that she believed family lore that she was one-sixteenth Native American. And given some inherent errors in the testing, that’s not impossible. The DNA test only showed the likely generational range with a fair amount of uncertainty, but there was no uncertainty about the broader claim of Native American ancestry. I don’t think Warren’s claim rises to the level of calling it a lie because there is zero evidence that she made the claim in bad faith. Indeed, she felt confident enough that she even took a DNA test.

            As to a Republican making the same claim, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be piling on. Suppose it turns out that Paul Ryan isn’t Irish after all. Would anyone blame him for believing that he was? I don’t think so. On the other hand, I feel quite free to criticize a President who insists Obama was born in Kenya. Now that is an out-and-out lie. Most of us are smart enough to understand the difference between common discrepancies in family history that go back generations versus outright political lies. It’s not a tough call.

            BTW, like Barkley, I am not a big fan of Warren’s presidential ambitions. She’s okay as a senator, but I don’t think she’s presidential material. I’ve always been a Joe Biden kind of guy. Even back in 2008 I preferred Biden to Obama.

        2. Barkley Rosser


          You have also been obsessed with my once citing a post on Quora, which you have gone on and on. I actually know nothing about Quora, but let me provide a very hard academic source on the matter that I initially cited a post on Quora about, namely the distribution of Native Indian ancestry among self-identified European-Americans. So the definitive source is a paper by K. Bryc, E.Y. Durend, J.M. Macpherson, D.Reich, and J.L. Mountain, in the American Journal of Human Genetics, Jan. 9, 2015, 90(1), 37-53. In this study they report that among European-Americans whle the average amount of African ancestry is o.8% and Native Indian is 0.9%. However, this does not remotely mean that if you randomly pick up some white person they will have either of those percentages. The distributions are highly skewed, as I previously noted as did the Quora poster. As it is, in this study they report that the percentage of European-Americans with more than 1% African ancestry is 3.5% while rhe precentage of European-Americans who have more 1% of Native Indian ancestry is only 2.7%. The vast majority of white Americans have zero Native Indian ancestry. You were just way wrong on this matter.

          I am not interest4ed in repeating the earlier debate we had on this, but I shall note only three points, all made before. ONe was that those involved have said that Warren’s status had nothng to do with her hiring at Harvard. The publicity about it came later. She had and has an excellent scholarly recored. Another is that she was saying nothing about any of this when her political career started, but it was brought up by her opponents who have gone on and on about calling her “Pocahontas.”

          Finally, she never claimed to be an actual member of any tribe and said that her ancestry was very far back, from before a great grandmother. That is exactly what her DNA test showed. Yeah, maybe she should have hadd the test earlier and she has mishandled this differently and did some dunb things (see cookbook fiasco), but her basic claim has been verified by the DNS test. No like ther, much less LIE.

          You should be ashamed of yourself, Moses. Your ranting about this has been truly despicable.

          1. Moses Herzog

            @ Barkley Rosser
            a half-way decent link/paper. “Daddy” always knew you had it in you. Will be reading it for my further edification. But sad for you, none of your positions precludes the fact that Senator Warren LIED. You do get 1/2 credit point for actually having something to back your argument now. I will send a memo to your students telling them your bibliography and reference skills ARE improving. That’s happy news indeed.

          2. Barkley Rosser


            Just exactly where and when did Warren lie (I shall not indulge in repeating your stupid capitalizing)? I am not going to go further on this dead end ridiculous thread, but face up to the fact that you made a completely ignorant and foolish argument that a random white person picked up on a US street would be likely to have more Native Indian ancestry than Warren, who has just about exactly what she claimed to have, with bozoes like you still claiming that somehow she lied somewhere somehow. The link at Quora, possibly an “unreliable” site, gave a completely accurate and much more detailed argument and explanation than one finds in the journal article you are now willing to accept. The Quora link relied on that article, in case you did not figure it out, so busy you were to go on and on about Quora.

            As it is, Moses, I have been a journal editor for a decade and a half, long notorious for being extremely picky about References, and I am often criticized for having too many References in my books and articles. You need to actually read things rather than engaging in dumb knee jerking regarding surface sources on blogs, which are not academic journal articles. You have been profoundly wrong about the fundamentals of this entire issue, and you need to admit it and stop lying. Again, your performance on this thread has been disgraceful.

            Really, you mostly seem like an intelligent guy, although I am sure both Jim and Menzie would prefer if you did not keep going off topic so much, even if they are willing to tolerate it, both of them being intelligent and reasonable guys.

          3. Moses Herzog

            @ Barkley Rosser and the assembled
            It may be fascinating for regular readers of Econbrowser to note, that in the very same research paper that Barkley Rosser quotes, if we use the journal page numbers you can go to the first paragraph of page 50 and read the following that is listed under this major sub-topic headline of the paper starting back on page 49 titled “Robust Estimates of African and Native American Ancestry in African Americans and European Americans”
            The inferred segments of African and Native American are UNIFORMLY DISTRIBUTED across the genome. Although we expect that some of the inferred ancestry might arise from difficulties in assigning ancestry in complex regions of the genome, only a small fraction of the estimated African and Native American ancestry in European Americans can be explained through such biases and is not expected to give rise to any substantial (more than 1%) ancestry from any population.

            That does not agree with or even be slightly consistent with Barkley Rosser’s assertion that the distribution is “skewed”. It is also interesting to observe that the word “skewed” is never used once in the paper Barkley Rosser finally got around to quoting to “support” his contention that the distribution was “skewed”.

            When Barkley Junior stated that the data (the % of European Americans with Native American ancestry) was “skewed” I was completely baffled how that could be after so many generations of what I term “interracial relations” and what the research paper labels “admixture”. As the paper states, one of the few things that could drastically change it after that many generations of “admixture” are major historical migration events and/or what they term “settlement patterns” such as the “Trail of Tears” forced migration of the 1830s. Indeed, this had minor effects on the distribution of Native American ancestry, and did NOT make the distribution “skewed” as Barkley Junior had stated on more than one posted comment.

            Once again, the paper Barkley Junior quotes can be found here:

            By the way, the authors of the paper Barkley Rosser quotes estimate that initial admixture between Europeans and Native Americans occurred 12 generations ago,
            Draw your own conclusions.

          4. Barkley Rosser

            Wow, Moses, you just will not leave well enough alone after making yourself already look like both a bigger fool and jerk than either of out dynamic duo, Peak Trader and CoRev.

            The quote you provide refers to “distribution across the genome,” not “distribution across the population,” not that I expected you new much about population genetics, given the blunders you have already made. As it is, I personally knew Sewall Wright, who was at U-Wisconsin before Menzie’s time there, and have published about his work in academic journals and books, if you happen to know who he was.

            Really, Moses, it is time for you to give this up before you dig yourself deeper into the hole you are already in. And I apologize to others for responding yet again to Moses’s increasingly desperate and silly efforts to try to salvage something of his intellectual and moral reputation out of this horrendous mess.

          5. Moses Herzog

            @ Barkley Rosser
            So let me get this straight, when researchers use terms they use in genetic research such as “genome-wide” did you think they were just talking about your Aunt Betty (i.e. one individual) ?? Or just the guys you play Friday night Bingo with?? Genome often refers to the DNA characteristics of a large group of people.

            Barkley, do your family a big favor, when they cart you off to the nursing home make sure they have a fence around the entire property grounds, ok?? They are going to be very worried about you if you wander too far and can’t remember the route back.

          6. Barkley Rosser

            This is not the place to try to explain population genetics to you, Moses. The bottom line, which you initially denied, but several of us have provided links that state it very clearly, is that the solid majority of Euro-Americans have zero Native Indian ancestry, zero. You ignorantly claimed that somehow the average amount of such ancestry was evenly distributed throughout the Euro-American population, when it is not close to being so. The reason you could not find any reference to this distribution across the population being skewed in the Byrc et al article is that this is so obvious that they simply assume that anybody reading the article knows this. Distribution across the genome means something else, and it does not imply what you incorrectly claimed about picking up a random Euro-American from the street and finding that, gosh, they are likely to have more Native Indian ancestry than Elizabeth Warren’s DNA test shows she has. She has more than the vast majority of Euro-Americans have.

            At a real bottom line, we all get it that you think she is/was a Very Unethical Person for how she handled this matter of her miniscule Native Indian ancestry. You have gone on and on about it, outright raving in capital letters and making a series of outright false allegations. You have received zero support for your more exaggerated and fevered claims, even as many of us think she did not handle this well. I think it really is time to give up this campaign here. You are convincing nobody and only making yourself look like an ignorant and deranged fool.

            BTW, I happen to own Sewall Wright’s last personal copy of his 1927 report to the USDA on the corn-hog cycle, one of the earliest places the identification problem was identified. Really, Moses, arguing with me about population genetics is not helping your reputation here one iota.

  18. Moses Herzog

    Well, what can I say folks, just reading a lot here. Sorry if this is like a links “barrage” here. But it does look like the “master statesman” donald trump has Iran right where he wants them with this whole Meng Wanzhou “volley”. What a “masterly” move by the trumpster!!! Maybe he can kidnap some India company’s CFO!!! And then kidnap a leader of a Russian company!!! (Oh wait, Putin is trump’s “BFF” so we can’t kidnap Russians who trade with Iran, Damn it!!!!!!) This guy trump, the “genius switch” is never in the off position. I need to create some kind of regression analysis or OLS “thingy” that could prove that if trump kidnaps enough high-ranking foreign businessmen that he can make our trade deficit even larger than he already has. Anyone know how to draw that up??

    Another “master stroke” by trump!!! #Winning

  19. pgl

    I have forgotten which one of the Usual Suspects got all flustered when I suggested that the DRAM multinationals such as Micron might be guilty of conspiring to keep their prices high. After all – the meme is that those evil Chinese startups are stealing the IP of Micron. Seriously?

    “Samsung, Hynix, Micron sued for DRAM price fixing that could have raised PC prices

    Record high prices for DRAM may have a cascading effect on computers, which have multiple parts that use DRAM.”

    I also forget who accused me of not being able to read a 10-K when I cited Micron’s 10-K. Maybe that defender of the Usual Suspects might read this part of the story:

    “Revenues for Samsung, Hynix, and Micron doubled between Q1 2016 and Q3 2017, with a 47% increase in 2017, the largest in 30 years.”

    And yes Micron’s operating margin is almost 50% but most of those profits are sourced to tax havens.

    No one is stealing their IP but they are robbing us blind before we even enter Best Buy!

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