Journal of Economic Perspectives: Vol. 2 No. 4 (Fall 1988)


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Theory versus Empiricism in Academic Economics: Update and Comparisons

Article Citation

Morgan, Theodore. 1988. "Theory versus Empiricism in Academic Economics: Update and Comparisons." Journal of Economic Perspectives, 2(4): 159-164.

DOI: 10.1257/jep.2.4.159


Six years ago, Wassily Leontief, a past president of the American Economic Association and Nobel Laureate, analyzed the kinds of articles published in the American Economic Review. He focused on the proportion of articles devoted to theory as compared to empirical analysis and criticized the discipline for an aversion to "systematic empirical inquiry." I reproduce Leontief's tabulation of American Economic Review articles for 1972-76 and 1977-81, and then add new data covering the most recent five years, 1982-86. The question is: what changes are occurring in the proportions of theoretical articles and empirical articles? For comparison, I also consider levels and trends at the Economic Journal in Britain. Finally, I compare academic economics, from the above data for 1982-86, with two other U.S. social sciences and two U.S. physical sciences. The articles tabulated for the social and physical sciences are those appearing in the official journals of their associations.

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Morgan, Theodore (Unlisted)

JEL Classifications

011: Role of Economics; Role of Economists


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