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HOW ECONOMISTS ENTERED THE ‘NUMBERS GAME’: MEASURING DISCRIMINATION IN THE US COURTROOMS, 1971–1989

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 June 2020

Abstract

The paper explores why and how economists entered the courtrooms as expert witnesses in employment discrimination cases in the US. The main sources are published legal decisions. I analyze the courts’ and economists’ discourses on the use of a specific method: multiple regression analysis in relation to litigation history, academic debates, and the institutional settings of expertise within the courts. I first show how the early reception of the method in the late 1970s did not involve systematic rejection from the courts but rather a large amount of skepticism. I then illustrate how economic theory underlying the method was progressively introduced in the “judicial tool kit” and how the debates in the courtrooms relate to the debates in academia in the 1980s. By 1989, practical and ethical questions regarding the institutional settings of experts’ testimony took center stage, reflecting the increasing professionalization of forensic economics.

Type
Symposium: Economists in Court
Copyright
© The History of Economics Society 2020

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Footnotes

CRASSH, University of Cambridge. I am indebted to Béatrice Cherrier, Christina Laskaridis, and Steven Medema for their help in the making of this paper. I also thank François Allisson, Federico Brandmayr, Nicolas Chachereau, Jessica Clement, Annie Lou Cot, Maxime Desmarais-Tremblay, Jean-Baptiste Fleury, David Gindis, Dan Hirschman, Dorian Jullien, Harro Maas, Magdalena Malecka, Alain Marciano, Guillaume Noblet, and John Singleton, as well as the reviewers, for their helpful comments on various versions of the paper. I would like to thank Tiago Mata for access to The Fortune issue, Francine Blau for comments on the Vuyanich trial, and James Gwartney for answering some of my questions by email. All errors remain mine.

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