Monthly Archives: July 2011

Male organ and economic growth: does size matter?

By: Tatu Westling


This paper explores the link between economic development and penile length between 1960 and 1985. It estimates an augmented Solow model utilizing the Mankiw-Romer-Weil 121 country dataset. The size of male organ is found to have an inverse U-shaped relationship with the level of GDP in 1985. It can alone explain over 15% of the variation in GDP. The GDP maximizing size is around 13.5 centimetres, and a collapse in economic development is identified as the size of male organ exceeds 16 centimetres. Economic growth between 1960 and 1985 is negatively associated with the size of male organ, and it alone explains 20% of the variation in GDP growth. With due reservations it is also found to be more important determinant of GDP growth than country’s political regime type. Controlling for male organ slows convergence and mitigates the negative effect of population growth on economic development slightly. Although all evidence is suggestive at this stage, the `male organ hypothesis’ put forward here is robust to exhaustive set of controls and rests on surprisingly strong correlations.
Keywords: Economic growth; development; male organ; penile length; Solow model
JEL: O47

Although it compares economic development in 1960 vs 1985, this is not strictly a historical piece. Hence why it was placed at the bottom of the report. However, it is included in the report and blog as it follows from the previous discussion on the blog relating to internal vs external consistency. The article has also attracted attention in the popular press:

Westling argues, I think correctly, that physical features can be an interesting measure of development of non-oil producing countries. His choice of the male organ is justified as: “it represents a well defined and concrete object. Second, it is relatively easy to measure (erect length is used). Third, it is largely free from cultural connotations that might hound complex institutional variables..’. I can see that economic development can associate, enhance or even feedback with changes in physical features. For instance, height. But I find the inverse causation hard to follow. I think this is a case of good correlation but very doubtful causality. Westling readily acknowledges that much: “the exact channel through which these penile-effects take place remains unclear.”

Economics, History, and Causation.

By Randall Morck Randall & Bernard Yeung

Click to access EconomicsHistoryandCausationNBERw16678.pdf

Economics and history both strive to understand causation: economics using instrumental variables econometrics and history by weighing the plausibility of alternative narratives. Instrumental variables can lose value with repeated use because of an econometric tragedy of the commons bias: each successful use of an instrument potentially creates an additional latent variable bias problem for all other uses of that instrument – past and future. Economists should therefore consider historians’ approach to inferring causality from detailed context, the plausibility of alternative narratives, external consistency, and recognition that free will makes human decisions intrinsically exogenous.

This paper has yet to appear in NEP-HIS but should be forthcoming as the NBER takes a bit to update its series. The paper has already been published (Business History Review, 85(1), Spring 2011).

Morck and Yeung offer a long and detailed critique of mainstream economics through its excessive use of econometrics and disregard for  work by other economists. This article touches on an interesting idea, namely the need for greater external consistency in quantitative studies.

I was hoping that along side this critique the authors would have offered something similar for historians, perhaps along the lines of what Friedman and Jones state in the introduction to that same issue of BHR. I also felt their overall argument would have been more powerful if the paper had been published in a high ranking, mainstream outlet,  the Journal of Economic History  or any other of the highly quantitative outlets in the area.