Peter Phillips awarded Distinguished Fellow of NZAE

Peter C B PhillipsPeter C B Phillips is an outstanding economist and econometrician.

Peter is in many ways a product of the New Zealand education system at its best. He was dux of Mt Albert Grammar School, and went to Auckland University with a scholarship. As might be expected, he won prizes in both mathematics and economics, but more telling was his decision to take Latin to fulfil the language requirement for an arts degree. Doing his masters, Peter was at Auckland when the economics department was strong, and he was especially fortunate to have as his thesis supervisor Rex Bergstrom – a unique teacher and researcher with the highest intellectual standards. The result of their collaboration was stylish piece of work, eventually published in Econometrica in 1972[1], the first of around 170 published articles Peter has produced to date[2].

The range of these is notable; for instance, in addition to the expected stream of technical pieces advancing the frontiers of econometrics, Peter has published poetry in Landfall[3]. But a special mention must be made of a charming reflective piece in 1994[4], where he muses about his life and the place of his family, in the guise of thinking about the day.

After this sound beginning, in 1971 Peter set off for the world, and the path has taken him via the London School of Economics (where he completed his PhD entitled “Problems in the Estimation of Continuous Time Models,” supervised by Denis Sargan) a teaching stint alongside Rex Bergstrom at the University of Essex. – where we worked on modelling the New Zealand economy together – through his first professorship at the University of Birmingham and on to the commanding heights of Yale’s Cowles Commission. He is now the Sterling Professor of Economics and Professor of Statistics at Yale University. In addition, he has been returning to New Zealand regularly for years and is University of Auckland: Alumni Distinguished Professor of Economics, as well as University of York: Adjunct Visiting Professor of Economics.

Peter is founding editor and a prolific contributor to Econometric Theory, where his wide ranging intellect and eager enthusiasm can be seen in a bewildering set of contributions from formal papers to interviews of eminent econometricians.

Peter’s awards and prizes are many, and it is hard to single several out for noting. But to select a few, we note particularly his election to membership of four distinguished scholastic bodies: the New Zealand Royal Society, the Econometric Society the American Statistical Association and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has won the New Zealand Royal Society medal in science and technology as well as the NZIER Qantas economist of the year. But I suspect that among his own preferences would be awards he has received as teacher of the year and advisor of the year from the Yale University Graduate Economics Club.

As this necessarily brief history and his awards suggest, but do not prove, Peter is much more than an outstanding technician; he is a lively and enthusiastic person who lives a full life and enjoys a variety of pursuits. He is indeed an fine individual to know, and a deserving distinguished fellow of the NZAE.

[1] The dissertation was “The Structural Estimation of Stochastic Differential Equation Systems,” and the published piece, “The Structural Estimation of a Stochastic Differential Equation System,” Econometrica, Vol. 40, No. 6, November 1972, pp. 1021-1041.

[2] See

[3] Making the present Auckland economics department surely unique locally in having two professors who have published in New Zealand’s leading literary magazine.

[4] “Reflections on the Day,” Journal of Economic Surveys, Vol. 8, No. 3, September 1994, 311-316.

John Yeabsley