IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Does economic theory need more evidence? A balancing of arguments


  • Paul Anand


This article seeks to provide a characterization of theory prevalent in economics and found in many areas of social and natural science, particularly those that make increasing use of rational choice perspectives. Four kinds of theoretical project are identified in which empirical evidence plays a relatively small role in theory acceptance. The paper associates the minor role of evidence in theory formation and acceptance to a need to answer counterfactual questions and argues that is not necessarily incompatible with accounts of science that emphasise truth in the development of theory. However, this view of economics does highlight factors that play a central role in theory acceptance which have not featured very strongly, if at all, in the philosophy of science literature. The article goes on to discuss four areas of economics that illustrate the consequences of using theory acceptance procedures which give relatively little weight to empirical testing. Benefits and costs of counterfactual science as it has developed in economics are discussed. It is concluded that there are good reasons why scientists may not use evidence in theory acceptance, even if an unintended consequence has been to strip economics of valuable empirical sensibilities still evident in natural sciences.

Suggested Citation

  • Paul Anand, 2003. "Does economic theory need more evidence? A balancing of arguments," Journal of Economic Methodology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 10(4), pages 441-463.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:jecmet:v:10:y:2003:i:4:p:441-463 DOI: 10.1080/1350178032000130457

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Hendrik P. van Dalen, 1999. "The Golden Age of Nobel Economists," The American Economist, Sage Publications, vol. 43(2), pages 19-35, October.
    2. Josh Lerner & Jean Triole, 2000. "The Simple Economics of Open Source," NBER Working Papers 7600, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Hendrik P. Dalen & Kène Henkens, 1999. "How Influential Are Demography Journals?," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 25(2), pages 229-251.
    4. Aloysius Siow, 1991. "Are First Impressions Important in Academia?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 26(2), pages 236-255.
    5. Hodgson, Geoffrey M & Rothman, Harry, 1999. "The Editors and Authors of Economics Journals: A Case of Institutional Oligopoly?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 109(453), pages 165-186, February.
    6. Rosen, Sherwin, 1981. "The Economics of Superstars," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(5), pages 845-858, December.
    7. David M. Levy, 1988. "The Market for Fame and Fortune," History of Political Economy, Duke University Press, vol. 20(4), pages 615-625, Winter.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Lind, Hans, 2007. "The story and the model done: An evaluation of mathematical models of rent control," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(2), pages 183-198, March.
    2. Piero Ferri & Anna Maria Variato, 2007. "Macro Dynamics in a Model with Uncertainty," Working Papers (-2012) 0704, University of Bergamo, Department of Economics.


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:taf:jecmet:v:10:y:2003:i:4:p:441-463. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Chris Longhurst). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.