A few years ago, [University of Chicago economist Jim] Heckman was rumored to be so upset over the direction of his department that he began looking to leave. Chicago had never been an ideal place to do empirical work. Nobel Prize-winning theorists like Gary Becker and Robert Lucas disliked dirtying their hands with data. Now the department was finally warming up to data-crunchers ... and they were the kind Heckman deemed useless.
Tell that to Bob Fogel, another Nobel laureate, who helped revolutionise research into economic history (and American history in general) by mobilising researchers into collecting reams of useful data. What he and other economists added to these historical debates was a knack for collecting data that could be analysed and that could help distinguish causality from guesswork; they also held themselves to very high standards when they did the analysis. I could go on about others at that University of Chicago who have done, and are doing, great empirical work.
Cowles CommissionneverNoam Scheiber