On the Meaning of Causal Generalisations in Policy-Oriented Economic Research

Abstract

Current philosophical accounts of causation suggest that the same causal assertion can have different meanings. Yet, in actual social-scientific practice, the possible meanings of some causal generalisations intended to support policy prescriptions are not always spelled out. In line with a standard referentialist approach to semantics, we propose and elaborate on four questions to systematically elucidate the meaning of causal generalisations. The analysis can be useful to a host of agents, including social scientists, policy makers, and philosophers aiming at being socially relevant. To illustrate our proposal, we analyse the complexities related to the meaning of causal generalisations in the context of a concrete case of economic research which is explicitly intended to guide public policy, namely: the OECD research on the causes of unemployment.

This content has been updated on July 18th, 2016 at 17 h 15 min.