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EconomicsPart of Economic, Social and Political Science

0801 Professor A. L. Bowley's Theory of the Representative Method (J. Aldrich)

Discussion Paper 0801, "Professor A L Bowley’s Theory of the Representative Method", by John Aldrich

Arthur. L. Bowley (1869-1957) first advocated the use of surveys--the "representative method"--in 1906 and started to conduct surveys of economic and social conditions in 1912. Bowley's 1926 memorandum for the International Statistical Institute on the "Measurement of the precision attained in sampling" was the first large-scale theoretical treatment of sample surveys as he conducted them. This paper examines Bowley's arguments in the context of the statistical inference theory of the time. The great influence on Bowley's conception of statistical inference was F. Y. Edgeworth but by 1926 R. A. Fisher was on the scene and was attacking Bayesian methods and promoting a replacement of his own. Bowley defended his Bayesian method against Fisher and against Jerzy Neyman when the latter put forward his concept of a confidence interval and applied it to the representative method.

Keywords: History of Statistics, Sampling theory, Bayesian inference.

JEL Classification: B16, B3.

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