Model or Muddle? Quantitative Modeling and the Façade of "Modernization" in Law


Quantitative modeling in law has become commonplace. While quantitative models are sometimes necessary or useful, they seem attractive in many other cases simply because they sport a veneer of modernity. All things being equal, quantitative methods place a sort of “thumb on the scale,” which adds weight that an otherwise identically persuasive non-quantitative method would not.

We argue that legal scholars often use what should merely be a descriptive tool as a “scientific” model, to their own detriment. First, by claiming to solve normative legal problems using quantitative models, scholars distort the true nature of such problems by oversimplifying them. Second, many scholars fall into circular reasoning, because their defense of quantitative legal reasoning sometimes boil down to saying, “quantitative reasoning is more scientific and precise than verbal reasoning because quantitative reasoning is more scientific and precise than verbal reasoning, according to the same scientific and precise quantitative reasoning.” Third, quantitative models can be abused to impart a veneer of science to unfalsifiable, and thus pseudoscientific, propositions that can lead to—and have led to—misguided public policy decisions.

56 Washburn L.J. 1
Yunsieg P. Kim
Yunsieg P. Kim
Associate Professor of Law