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    The vetting of Elizabeth Warren’s academic background begins

    The vetting of Elizabeth Warren’s academic background begins

    I have alluded to issues certain writers have taken with Elizabeth Warren’s academic writings.

    But never have I seen a more scathing critique of Warren than that published by highly regarded Rutgers Law Professor Philip Shuchman which was uncovered by Michael Patrick Leahy at

    The article is posted here, and was published in the 1990-1991 edition of the Rutgers Law Review.

    It is 60 pages of devastating analysis of a book Warren co-authored, As We Forgive Our Debtors: Bankruptcy and Consumer Credit in America.  This is the money quote reprinted in Leahy’s article:

    Most of their study replicates several earlier research publications. These are hardly mentioned. The writers make extravagant and false claims to originality and priority of research. There appear to be serious errors in their use of statistical bases which result in grossly mistaken functions and comparisons. Some of their conclusions cannot be obtained even from their flawed findings. The authors have made their raw data unavailable so that its accuracy cannot be independently checked. In my opinion, the authors have engaged in repeated instances of scientific misconduct. [emphasis added]

    In those 60 pages, Professor Shuchman demonstrates time and again how Warren and her co-authors jumped to conclusions, proclaimed new findings which were not new, and most importantly, ignored or did not accurately reflect data.

    This point, on page 240 of the Rutgers article, reflects a tendency which Warren has had throughout her career to reach conclusions which were politically charged and headline grabbing, but not supported by the data:

    Burgeoning consumer credit and increased volatility, they say, are the two primary systemic factors that caused the “startling increases” in consumer bankruptcy in the 1980’s. But these increases are less than in other recent periods and are only about one-sixth more than the increases in business bankruptcies, which suggests that consumer credit is not the cause of the increase in personal bankruptcy filings. [footnotes omitted]

    (added) Professor Shuchman went even further (at pp. 243-244), and suggested that the data was presented in such a way as to preclude verification:

    This book contains so much exaggeration, so many questionable ploys, and so many incorrect statements, that it would be well to check the accuracy of their raw data, as old as it is. But the authors arranged matters so that they could not provide access to the computer printouts by case, with the corresponding bankruptcy court file numbers, thus preventing any independent check of the raw data in the files from which they took their information. [footnotes omitted]

    Leahy has other information regarding Warren’s climb to the top.

    In the coming weeks we will learn a lot more about Warren’s academic work, and how politically charged conclusions were not always supported by the numbers.

    The vetting has just begun.

    We will see if Warren’s academic claims hold up better than her claim to be Native American, minority, and a “women of color.”


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