The age of the applied economist: the transformation of economics since the 1970s

Roger Backhouse, Beatrice Cherrier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)
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It is widely accepted that economics has changed significantly since the 1970s with the development of new data sources, new methods of analysis and the computer. This paper argues that this transformation of the discipline involves more than just a rise of empirical work: it involves a new understanding of the relationship between theoretical and applied work, which raised the prestige of the latter. The meaning of economic theory and applied work and the boundaries between them changed as theory and empirical work alike became more applied in the sense that they were brought to bear on specific social issues, often with a policy orientation. Drawing on an analysis of John Bates Clark medal winners and on papers published in a special volume of History of Political Economy, to which which this is an introduction, we then discuss reasons for this transformation. It resulted from new modeling strategies, data sets and technologies as as well as the changing influence of public and private patrons.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-33
Number of pages33
JournalHistory of Political Economy
Volume49 (Supplement)
Early online date1 Dec 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • applied economics
  • theory
  • applied theory
  • John Bates Clark Medal
  • JEL codes
  • core
  • economic policy
  • computation
  • data
  • econometrics


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