Yale Professor Explains Risks and Rewards of Empirical Evaluation

April 04, 2006

John J. Donohue III, Leighton Homer Surbeck Professor of Law at Yale Law School, will discuss the growing trend in empirical evaluation of law and public policy and the potential gains and pitfalls of such studies in a three-part lecture series at Northwestern Law.

Donohue will present his lecture, "Landmines and Goldmines: Why it is Hard to Find Truth and Easy to Peddle Falsehood in Empirical Evaluation of Law and Public Policy," as part of the School of Law's Julius Rosenthal Foundation Lecture Series.

The first speech, "Increasing the Supply of and Demand for Truth," will be presented at 4 p.m. on April 4; the second, titled "Causal Inference," at noon on April 5; and the third, "Is this Art, Science, or Politics?" at noon on April 6. All lectures will take place in Rubloff 140 at the School of Law, 357 East Chicago Avenue, and are free and open to the public.

The potential gains from being able to ascertain the true impact of law and legal changes are enormous; Donohue will share empirical examples from the domains of criminal law, environmental law, antidiscrimination law, and corporate law. He will not only discuss the nature of the difficulties in undertaking these studies and the important insights garnered from their appropriate use, but will also highlight some of the ways in which skilled researchers have at times generated misleading estimates.

Donohue is an economist and lawyer who has used large-scale statistical studies to estimate the impact of law and public policy in a wide range of areas from civil rights and employment discrimination law to school funding and crime control. He specializes in employment discrimination, criminal law, law and economics, contracts, law and statistics and torts, among other subjects. Prior to joining Yale, Donohue was a chaired professor at both Northwestern Law School and Stanford Law School, a Research Fellow at the American Bar Foundation, and a visiting law professor at Harvard, Yale, the University of Chicago, Cornell, and the University of Virginia. He was a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies in Behavioral Sciences in 2000-01, and edited the volume "Foundations of Employment Discrimination Law", Foundation Press, 2nd edition (2003). He recently published Employment Discrimination: Law and Theory, Foundation Press (with George Rutherglen) and is a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research. He has also been selected to become co-editor (with Steven Shavell) of the American Law and Economics Review.

The Rosenthal Lecture Series was established in 1919 in memory of Julius Rosenthal (1827-1905), an eminent and beloved member of the Chicago Bar. The series is one of the principal programs supported by the Julius Rosenthal Foundation and has assumed a preeminent position in the legal world. Publication of the lectures has made a notable contribution to legal literature and scholarship for more than 70 years.

  • Categories: