Statistical and Economic Approaches to Legal History

11 Pages Posted: 15 Oct 2002 Last revised: 19 Dec 2014

See all articles by Daniel M. Klerman

Daniel M. Klerman

University of Southern California Gould School of Law


Legal historians currently make remarkably little use of economic theory or of statistical tests. The neglect of economics and statistics may reflect misperceptions of these fields, both of which have changed dramatically in the last two decades. For example, legal historians may reject economic analysis, because they view it as theoretical and abstract, as politically conservative, or as naively functionalist. While each of these claims might have been true twenty years ago, they are largely false today.

Scholars outside the legal history community, most notably economists, however, have begun to use rational choice theory and regression analysis to investigate issues which are at the core of legal history - the causes of legal change and the effect of legal change on behavior. This article uses citation analysis to substantiate the claim that legal historians make little use of economics and statistics. It then attempts to show how economics and statistics can contribute to legal history by giving examples of recent work which use economics and statistics to illuminate the determinants and effects of legal change.

Suggested Citation

Klerman, Daniel M., Statistical and Economic Approaches to Legal History. USC Public Policy Research Paper No. 02-6; USC CLASS Research Paper No. 02-6. Available at SSRN: or

Daniel M. Klerman (Contact Author)

University of Southern California Gould School of Law ( email )

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