Joni Hersch

Professor of Law and Economics
Co-Director, Ph.D. Program in Law and Economics

Joni Hersch is an economist who works in the areas of employment discrimination and empirical law and economics. Her recent research demonstrates that women who are graduates of elite institutions have lower labor market activity than their counterparts who are graduates of non-elite institutions and examines the consequences of this labor market disparity for societal equity. Other research shows that graduates of non-elite institutions rarely earn post-baccalaureate degrees from elite universities, and even when they do, they do not catch up monetarily with graduates of elite undergraduate institutions. Her research on these topics, as well as her research on skin color discrimination, have received international media attention. Other recent research examines sexual harassment, job risks faced by immigrant workers, costs of smoking, punitive damages awards, and judge and jury behavior. Professor Hersch joined Vanderbilt Law School as a professor of law and economics in 2006, with secondary appointments in the Department of Economics and the Owen Graduate School of Management. She is also a research fellow with IZA - Institute for the Study of Labor. Over the course of her career, Professor Hersch has published numerous articles in the leading economics journals on group differences in labor market outcomes, the economics of home production, models of litigation, job risks, and product safety regulation. She is the author of Sex Discrimination in the Labor Market (Foundations and Trends in Microeconomics, 2006) and co-editor of Emerging Labor Market Institutions for the Twenty-First Century (University of Chicago, 2004). Professor Hersch is associate editor of the Review of Economics of the Household and is on the editorial board of Social Science Quarterly. In November 2012, Professor Hersch completed a two-year term as a vice-president of the Southern Economic Association. She was honored as one of two recipients of the 2013 Mentoring Award presented by the Vanderbilt University Margaret Cuninggim Women’s Center. Before joining Vanderbilt's law faculty, Professor Hersch was an adjunct law professor at Harvard Law School. She was a professor of economics at the University of Wyoming from 1989-99 and has been a visiting professor of economics at Northwestern, Caltech, Duke and Harvard.

Please direct media inquiries to Amy Wolf, VU Senior Public Affairs Officer, at 615-343-2634 or

Research Interests

Labor economics, discrimination, law and economics

Representative Publications

  • “Opting Out among Women with Elite Education,” 11(4) Review of Economics of the Household 469 (2013)
    Full Text | SSRN | WWW
  • “Compensating Differentials for Sexual Harassment,” 101(3) American Economic Review Papers and Proceedings 630 (2011)
    Full Text | SSRN | WWW
  • "Immigrant Status and the Value of Statistical Life," 45(3) Journal of Human Resources 749 (2010) (with W. Kip Viscusi)
    Full Text | SSRN | WWW
  • "Home Production and Wages: Evidence from the American Time Use Survey," 7(2) Review of Economics of the Household 159 (2009)
    Full Text | SSRN | WWW
  • "Profiling the New Immigrant Worker: The Effects of Skin Color and Height," 26(2) Journal of Labor Economics 345 (2008)
    Full Text | SSRN | WWW
  • "Demand for a Jury Trial and the Selection of Cases for Trial," 35(1) Journal of Legal Studies 119 (2006)
    Full Text | HEIN
  • "Skin Tone Effects among African Americans: Perceptions and Reality," 96(2) American Economic Review Papers and Proceedings 251 (2006)
    Full Text | SSRN | WWW
  • "Punitive Damages: How Judges and Juries Perform," 33(1) Journal of Legal Studies 1 (2004) (with W. Kip Viscusi)
    Full Text | SSRN | HEIN
  • "Cigarette Smokers as Job Risk Takers," 83(2) Review of Economics and Statistics 269 (2001) (with W. Kip Viscusi)
    Full Text | SSRN | WWW
  • "Compensating Differentials for Gender-Specific Job Injury Risks," 88(3) American Economic Review 598 (1998)
    Full Text | WWW

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Contact Information

(615) 343-7717 (voice)
(615) 322-6631 (fax)
Room 284 (office)

Curriculum Vitae



Ph.D. (Economics) Northwestern University
B.A. (Mathematics) University of South Florida