The Dialogue between Theoretical and Empirical Scholarship

9 Pages Posted: 16 Nov 2006

See all articles by Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren

Harvard Law School

Jay Lawrence Westbrook

University of Texas at Austin - School of Law

Date Written: November 2006


In this essay we offer brief reflections on the best process for critiquing empirical work in law and sustaining an engagement between theoretical and empirical approaches. We emphasize the importance of theoretical work in helping to shape the scholarly agenda, but we urge that theory should be more closely tied to fact. We illustrate our argument by responding to a recent critique of our own empirical work by Professor Rasmussen. His principal claim is that our work should be discounted because we reported on all business bankruptcies, both those of entrepreneurs and those in corporate form. In response, we reanalyze our data, separating the individuals from the corporations; in every case the re-analyzed data support the conclusions of our original paper to the same extent or more strongly. Similarly, his other claims about our work are shown to be incorrect.

Keywords: theoretical, empirical, scholar

JEL Classification: I20

Suggested Citation

Warren, Elizabeth and Westbrook, Jay L., The Dialogue between Theoretical and Empirical Scholarship (November 2006). U of Texas Law, Law and Econ Research Paper No. 88, Harvard Public Law Working Paper No. 137, Available at SSRN: or

Elizabeth Warren (Contact Author)

Harvard Law School ( email )

1575 Massachusetts
Hauser 406
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-495-3101 (Phone)
617-496-6118 (Fax)

Jay L. Westbrook

University of Texas at Austin - School of Law ( email )

727 East Dean Keeton Street
Austin, TX 78705
United States
(512) 232-1303 (Phone)


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