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Predicting Olympics Using Economics…and Other Silly Things to do with Social Sciences

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Sports Illustrated predicts 111 medals for the United States in the upcoming Olympics in Athens. USA Today predicts 119. The Review of Economics and Statistics predicts 93.

What is a head-in-the-clouds Economics journal doing predicting Olymic medal share? It turns out that they have been able to describe medal-winning as a function of sociology and geography. They take four variables – national population, per capita GDP, historical performance and host nation status – to mathematically predict the number of medals a country will win. They correctly picked 99 medals for the US four years ago, and have an astonishing 96% accuracy rating.

If you have four minutes and eight seconds, I recommend listening to this story from NPR:

Morning Edition audio

Oh, and before you go and try to create your own formulae for predicting sporting events, you should probably get an economics degree. Here is a copy of about 50% of the formulae they used to accomplish their predictions:

Rather than doing the math, you’re probably better off just listening to the interview with the guy who came up with the formulae.

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  • Eric Olsen

    This is amazing! I’m mentally gearing up for the Olympics now.