Does size matter?

20 May, 2021 at 08:56 | Posted in Economics | 8 Comments

Economic growth has since long interested economists. Not least, the question of which factors are behind high growth rates has been in focus. The factors usually pointed at are mainly economic, social and political variables. In an interesting study from the University of  Helsinki, Tatu Westling has expanded the potential causal variables to also include biological and sexual variables. In  the report Male Organ and Economic Growth: Does Size Matter, he has — based on the “cross-country” data of Mankiw et al (1992), Summers and Heston (1988), Polity IV Project data of political regime types and a new data set on average penis size in 76 non-oil producing countries ( — been able to show that the level and growth of GDP per capita between 1960 and 1985 varies with penis size. Replicating Westling’s study — yours truly has used his favourite program Gretl — we obtain the following two charts:

The Solow-based model estimates show that the maximum GDP is achieved with the penis of about 13.5 cm and that the male reproductive organ (OLS without control variables) are negatively correlated with — and able to explain 20% of the variation in — GDP growth.

Even with reservation for problems such as endogeneity and confounders one can not but agree with Westling’s final assessment that “the ‘male organ hypothesis’ is worth pursuing in future research” and that it “clearly seems that the ‘private sector’ deserves more credit for economic development than is typically acknowledged.” Or? …


  1. And its seems Scandinavian econometricians (Lars, Westling and presumably, by inference, others) must have an inordinate amount of time on their hands if they can devote energy to examining frivolous relationships.
    It was organs this time and alcohol the time before.
    And why would you worry about the causal relationships alcohol engenders when we all know that alcohol encourages many casual relationships and may well correlate with episodes of organic growth.
    These diversions to trivia must be a sign that Scandinavia is emerging from its wintery hibernation and that the sap has begun rising.

  2. Lars said:

    “The Solow-based model estimates show that the maximum GDP is achieved with the penis of about 13.5 cm and that the male reproductive organ….”

    Ayn Rand said (see Lars’ other post):

    “He does not understand, because he has no organ for understanding….”

    Either Ayn R. missed the point or got her organs muddled up.

    Doesn’t matter, I’m thoroughly confused myself and am having troubling unraveling organic growth and organ grinding.

    And Lars, you should be ashamed of yourself for making Gretl do such things.

  3. Intellectual honesty demands standard error bars on all those estimates. The reason they are not reported is because they would be so wide, you could tell any story you wanted.

    • I agree.

    • wasn’t that the point?

      • I hope that that was the point, and the point should apply to any use of GDP or “output” as a societal goal. Every time you scale something like national debt (or penis size as here) by GDP, you are multiplying standard errors and it is an intellectual crime to simply ignore that. Statistics are shaky enough when properly reporting the standard error; when error terms are simply dropped, and point estimates are assumed to be 100% accurate, you end up with pure faith-based religion, even by professional statisticians’ standards.

      • Robert,
        You have to make allowance for the fact that the Scandinavians are emerging from a period of suspended animation and are looking forward to the time that the on street cafes and bars of Stockholm and Helsinki are again thronged with those enjoying their favourite beverage as they study the passing parade and listen to the organ grinder and his monkey churn out the happy tunes of summer.

        • Henry, those scenes just make me anxious. I go out to immerse myself in nature as much as possible (as much as regulations permit), enjoying the feeling of not contributing to output but getting healthier and increasing my personal knowledge by observing and interacting with nature. I’m a drag on output; I should be making myself sick at a bs job and consuming alcohol to compensate, so I can buy more healthcare and pump up those output figures …

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