A methodological perspective on economic modelling and the global pandemic

John B. Davis


A question that recent research on the global pandemic raises is: how do the assumptions underlying epidemiological models and economic models differ? Epidemiological models we now know have become quite sophisticated (see Avery et al., 2020). Debate among economic methodologists regarding the nature of modeling has generated a considerable literature as well (Reiss, 2012; Hands, 2013). Yet these two literatures are largely non-communicating. Perhaps this is because economics has produced relatively little research on pandemics (though see Boianovsky and Erreygers, 2021). Yet it might still be asked, what might economic models be missing that epidemiological models capture? And might there be some sort of methodological bias in mainstream economics that plays a role in this? One way, then, one might begin to answer these questions is by identifying the main phenomenon in question, namely, in the case of the pandemic, a particular type of process, and ask what the nature of this type of process is. Then we may ask whether there is something about this type of phenomenon that places it out of bounds for current economic methodology. Thus, what sort of phenomenon is a pandemic?

Published on 11th February, 2022, in Economic Thought Vol 10, No 2, 2021