Over 40 years ago, when I was in graduate school, a professor told us his frustration with economics. He said: "An economist is stranded on an island. He wants to know if there are rabbits on the island. He busily goes about his research, looking at vegetation, habitat, water and other resources to determine if rabbits could thrive. If it was me, I'd look for rabbit droppings."
The John Bates Clark Medal is awarded annually by the American Economic Association to an economist under the age of 40 "who is judged to have made the most significant contribution to economic thought and knowledge". This year Dr. Amy Finkelstein, a health economist at MIT was the winner. Amy was recognized for her work on the effects on well being and behavior of Medicare and Medicaid. In economist-speak, she is honored in part because her work is a model of effective use of empirics (as opposed to theory). She looked for rabbit droppings. Amy has many other accomplishments. MIT introduces her here. If I am going to be stranded somewhere, I choose Amy for my team.