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HEDG Summer School: Historical Perspectives on Current Economics Issues: Big Data and Applications

Course title: Historical Perspectives on Current Economics Issues: Big Data and Applications
Professor Robert A. Margo (Boston University and NBER), Associate Professor Philipp Ager (University of Southern Denmark and CEPR), Professor Christian Møller Dahl (University of Southern Denmark) and Professor Paul Richard Sharp (University of Southern Denmark and CEPR)
Hosted by: Department of Business and Economics
17–28 August, 2020 
Location: The summer school will be held online (more information will follow)
Registration is closed
Registration deadline: June 30, 2020

The course is designed to introduce a selection of themes from economic history with a focus on understanding how history impacts on current economic outcomes and debates. The idea is thus not simply to gain an understanding of economic history for its own sake, but most importantly a realization that it is not possible to have a full understanding of the world economy today without knowing how we got there. For example, only history can teach us why economic disparities across and within countries persist. Certain questions, such as how mobile a society is across generations or how fast immigrants assimilate over time, can only be answered by using “big data” (for example, linking individuals over time based on complete count census records). Thus, this course will also introduce handwritten text recognition and automated linking which are important tools for exploiting “big data”.

Course topics and procedures:

The course will feature lectures from a leading guest professor and these lectures will constitute the main theme of the summer school. Additional lectures will be given by local faculty and will explore other themes in economic history as well as methods for analyzing big data such as machine learning. The lectures will include some or all the following topics:

  • Danish economic history
  • Labor markets
  • Health and demography
  • Open economy macro and trade
  • Culture and institutions
  • The use of big data in economic history

The course will consist of 3 hours of lectures per day plus 3 hours of exercise classes per day. Exercise classes will be left to the discretion of the individual teachers, but can include replication exercises, class presentations, and class discussions.

More information will be available under “Teaching” on

Learning objectives:
By the end of the course the students should be able to:

  • Demonstrate knowledge about the course’s focus areas, enabling the student to:
    • Apply data to assess problems frequently asked in economic history.
    • Apply statistical methods, such as regression analysis, to selected problems.
    • Assess the quality and relevance of scientific articles and statistical material.

  • Demonstrate skills, such that the student is able to:
    • Use relevant literature and data to work on a specific topic relevant to economic history.
    • Use econometric methods to analyze historical data.
    • Communicate orally and in writing economic history to peers and non-peers.

  • Demonstrate competences, such that the student is able to:
    • Share knowledge in a work process.
    • Identify and reflect on their own learning goals.
    • Identify a need for further development of the models and theories related to economic history.

There are no formal requirements for following the course, except for having acquired an understanding of econometrics at the level of the BA. Basic knowledge of statistical programs such as STATA or R is useful. Having followed the undergraduate classes ‘An Introduction to Economic and Business History’ and ‘Applied Economics’ would be an advantage.

ECTS points and course evaluation:
The course is evaluated by attendance in the entire course as well as passing a 72-hour home assignment consisting of several questions relating to the materials and methods discussed over the two weeks. The home assignment will start immediately after the course, i.e. from Friday 28 August at 4 pm until Monday 31 August at 4 pm.

Upon completion of all course activities (attendance in the entire course + passing the home assignment), participants will be awarded 10 ECTS credits and a course certificate.

Course fees:
The course is free of charge for PhD students in Economics from Scandinavian universities (Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Iceland and Finland). The fee for other PhD students is 250 EUR plus VAT. Participants are expected to cover their own transportation and accommodation costs (if needed).

Course website: Click here

Course responsible: Associate Professor Philipp Ager, Department of Business and Economics, University of Southern Denmark and CEPR,