Stylized Facts and Inequality Discourse


Generalized trends in real world observations can be boiled down to what are sometimes called "stylized facts," empirical regularities in search of theoretical and causal explanations. Simple statements like "democracies rarely go to war with each other" or "the share of income going to the top 1% has increased" enter into public discourse and eventually shape public policy. The process by which stylized facts go from raw observations to academic discourse to the public eye can be messy but incredibly influential on policy. Discourse regarding income inequality in the United States has specifically been shaped by the stylized facts that came out of available data during different periods. Dan Hirschman of Brown University discusses this process and its effects on public policy.