Fifteen years after the Global Financial Crisis: Recessions and Business Cycles in the History of Economic Thought

Has there been an empirical turn in economics? A study on recent changes in economics with an illustration from inequality research

Hardt Łukasz, University of Warsaw

This paper analyses one of the most important changes in economics in recent decades, precisely the growing importance of empirical analyses, which we refer to as an empirical turn in economics (cf. Cherrier 2016). We begin by offering some methodological remarks, and in particular we analyse how the concept of the empirical turn should be understood. We propose that changes in the way a given specific science is practiced should be looked through modifications of the broadly understood style of research (style of thinking). Here, we offer some philosophical insights into the ways the very idea of a research style should be understood, and in particular we agree with Frigg and Nguyen (2016) that “styles of representation other than structure-preserving mappings have to be recognized”, thus we distinguish an empirically oriented style of research. Then, referring to quantitative works on the history of modern economics, we show how research styles in economics have evolved in recent years (cf. Angrist et al. 2017). Here we offer also our own indicators of how the popularity of a given research style (e.g., the empirical one) can be measured. In the next step, we illustrate these considerations with a case study and describe the shift to empirical research using the example of inequality research. We conclude that there have been an empirical turn in economics in recent decades (i.e., since the 1970s). References: Cherrier B. (2016), ‘Is there really an Empirical Turn in Economics?’, Angrist J., Azoulay P., Ellison G., Hill R., Feng Lu S. (2017), ‘Economic Research Evolves: Fields and Styles’, American Economic Review, vol. 107(5), 293-297. Frigg R., Nguyen J. (2016), ‘Scientific Representation’, in: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy,

Area: Eshet Conference

Keywords: history of recent economics, empirical turn, methodology of economics, inequality research

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