Vanderbilt Plans Groundbreaking Ph.D. in Law and Economics

Released: 24-Jan-2006 5:00 PM EST
Source Newsroom: Vanderbilt University
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Newswise — W. Kip Viscusi and Joni Hersch, law and economics scholars at Harvard Law School, will join the Vanderbilt University faculty later this year as the law school launches the first program of its kind " a Ph.D. in law and economics.

By successfully recruiting two of the nation's premier scholars in law and applied economics, Vanderbilt Law School has embarked on the next generation of law and economics education: a combination of professional and academic degrees that will train scholars not only for academic positions, but also for legal practice, policy-making and public interest work.

"Kip and Joni do foundational work in law, economics and social science," said Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Nicholas S. Zeppos. "These are two spectacular appointments for the law school and whole university. They will also be wonderful university colleagues and citizens."

"I am honored to have Kip Viscusi and Joni Hersch join our faculty," said Vanderbilt Law School Dean Edward Rubin. "Both have had distinguished careers as leaders in the application of economics to law.

"They join us not only as individual scholars but also to create a truly innovative program that will combine two degrees within a single institution and represents the next stage in interdisciplinary education for American law schools," Rubin said.
Viscusi is the John F. Cogan Jr. Professor of Law and Economics and director of the Program on Empirical Legal Studies at Harvard Law School, where he has taught since 1996.

Pending Board of Trust approval next month, Viscusi will become University Distinguished Professor of Law and Economics, with primary appointments in law, business and economics. He is one of only five people at Vanderbilt with the University Professor designation, and the only University Distinguished Professor.

A University Professor is a faculty member whose work extends beyond traditional academic fields and disciplinary lines and who brings together diverse segments of the university in both research and teaching. A University Professor holds tenured, primary appointments in at least two schools of the university and has full-status appointments in each, participating in the teaching, research and service missions of each school.

Viscusi earned his undergraduate degree in economics, master's degrees in economics and public policy and doctorate in economics, all from Harvard. He is the award-winning author of more than 20 books and 250 articles, most of which are concerned with different aspects of health and safety risk. His research focuses on individual and societal responses to risk and uncertainty, and he is widely regarded as one of the world's leading authorities on cost-benefit analysis.

Viscusi's estimates of the value of risks to life and health have become the standard used throughout the federal government. He has served as a consultant to the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Department of Justice on issues pertaining to the valuation of life and health. He was deputy director of the Council of Wage and Price Stability in the Carter administration. He served on the Science Advisory Board of the EPA for seven years and currently serves on the agency's Homeland Security Committee.

Viscusi is the founding editor of the Journal of Risk and Uncertainty and has served on the editorial boards of a dozen other journals. He is co-author of Economics of Regulation and Antitrust and wrote Smoke-Filled Rooms: A Postmortem on the Tobacco Deal.

"Kip has been a pioneer in the application of cost-benefit analysis to the administrative state. This has become the dominant form of regulatory analysis by the country's executive branch," Rubin said. "In a field that is often distinguished by overheated ideology, he has distinguished himself as a balanced and objective analyst whose work commands respect from all sides of the political spectrum," he added.

Hersch is adjunct professor of law at Harvard Law School, where she has taught since 1999. Prior to that, she was professor of economics at the University of Wyoming. She has published numerous articles on the gender differences in labor market outcomes, the economics of home production, job risks and product safety. Her recent research examines gender differences in the labor market for lawyers, smoking regulations, health disparities, judge and jury behavior and breast implant litigation.

Hersch is co-editor of Emerging Labor Market Institutions for the Twenty-First Century. In a field long dominated by men, she is renowned as one of the top female economists in the world.

Pending Board of Trust approval next month, Hersch will have a tenured appointment at the law school and secondary appointments at the Owen Graduate School of Management and in the economics department in the College of Arts and Science.

"Joni brings to the law school not only a distinguished academic career in economics, but also a path-breaking ability to teach empirical methods to lawyers and a focus on feminist issues that will greatly benefit our students," Rubin said. "Although top law schools typically have faculty with economics degrees, they do not offer the sophisticated approach to law and economics that Vanderbilt will as it bridges between law, economics and business."

While details of the curriculum will be finalized after Viscusi and Hersch arrive at Vanderbilt, it is expected that courses in the program will be open to students in law, economics and business and taught primarily by law school, economics department and Owen School faculty. The degree will be administered by the Graduate School. Rubin said he also anticipates there will be post-doctoral fellows associated with the program.

Viscusi and Hersch expressed excitement over starting a unique program at Vanderbilt. "The law and economics movement is the most important innovation in legal scholarship in the past half century," they said. "Vanderbilt Law School will be launching the first J.D./Ph.D. program in the country focusing on law and economics. We are delighted to be an integral part of this exciting new venture along with our new colleagues in the law school, economics department and business school, and we are confident that the program will be a success given the strong support we have received from Chancellor Gee, Provost Zeppos and Dean Rubin, who are true academic visionaries."

"This unique Ph.D. in law and economics addresses the growing need to explore the areas where law and applied economics intersect, and it represents a major commitment on the part of Vanderbilt to build an interdisciplinary faculty," Rubin said. "It's exciting to do what no other law school has done, and to take the lead in what we believe is the wave of the future in law and economics education."

Viscusi and Hersch were recruited to Vanderbilt by a team including Chancellor Gordon Gee, Zeppos, Rubin, Owen School Dean James W. Bradford and College of Arts and Science Dean Richard C. McCarty.


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