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Harvard. Graduate Statistics in Economics. Final Exam, Day, 1914-15



Edmund Ezra Day mostly taught statistics at Harvard during his years on the faculty from 1910 to 1923 before going off to Michigan and Cornell. This posting contains the course announcement for 1914-15, enrollment figures, and the final examination questions for his graduate statistics course. This information comes from three different sources, all of which are available on-line. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting corresponding material from the twenty economics courses at Harvard during the 1914-15 year for which the final examination questions had been printed and subsequently published.


Course Announcement

Economics 13. Statistics: Theory, Method, and Practice. Mon., Wed., Fri., at 9. Asst. Professor Day.

The first half of this course is intended thoroughly to acquaint the student with the best statistical methods. Such texts as Bowley’s Elements of Statistics, Yule’s Introduction to the Theory of Statistics, and Zizek’s Statistical Averages, are studied in detail. Problems are constantly assigned to assure actual practice in the methods examined.

The second half of the course endeavors to familiarize the student with the best sources of economic statistical data. Methods actually employed in different investigations are analyzed and criticized. The organization of the various agencies collecting data is examined. Questions of the interpretation, accuracy, and usefulness of the published data are especially considered. [pp. 67-68]

Source: Division of History, Government, and Economics 1914-15. Official Register of Harvard University, Vol. XI, No. 1, Part 14 (May 19, 1914).


Course Enrollment

[Economics] 13. Asst. Professor Day.—Statistics: Theory, Method, and Practice.

Total 11: 8 Graduates, 2 Seniors, 1 Radcliffe.

Source: Report of the President of Harvard College, 1914-15, p. 60.


Final Exam (2nd term)


  1. What are the fundamental types of frequency distributions? What is the importance of each in (a) theoretical statistics; (b) applications of the statistical method in economics?
  2. Explain the different methods of determining the median and the mode.
    Describe the short-cut method of calculating the arithmetic mean from a frequency table. What assumptions underlie this method?
  3. “With series of irregular conformation it is better not to take an average of all the deviations as a measure of dispersion.” Explain. What is to be said for and against this position?
  4. To what different uses may the graphic method be put?
    In what ways may historic series be compared by the graphic method?
  5. Discuss correlation with reference to (a) the meaning of the term; (b) the use of the Pearsonian coefficient; (c) the lines of regression; (d) the definition of perfect correlation.
  6. Discuss the statistics of two of the following subjects with respect to (a) the agencies collecting the data, (b) the methods of collection, (c) the schedules employed, (d) the tabulation of the returns, and (e) the publication of results: —

Births and deaths in Massachusetts;
Money and banking;
The population of the United States;
Workingmen’s budgets.

Source: Harvard University Examinations. Papers Set for Final Examinations in History, History of Science, Government, Economics, Philosophy, Psychology, Social Ethics, Education, Fine Arts, Music in Harvard College. June 1915, pp. 55-56.

Image Source:  Edmund Ezra Day in Harvard Class Album, 1915.

Irwin Collier

Posted by: Irwin Collier