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Joni  Hersch - Vanderbilt University. Nashville, TN, US

Joni Hersch

Cornelius Vanderbilt Chair Professor of Law and Economics; Co-Director, Ph.D. Program in Law and Economics | Vanderbilt University


Expert in employment discrimination, focusing particularly on women, minorities and immigrants.



Joni  Hersch Publication






Joni Hersch is an economist who works in the areas of employment discrimination and empirical law and economics. She has published numerous articles in leading peer-reviewed journals and law reviews.

Hersch’s research focuses on the influence of gender, race, national origin, skin color, and family background on labor market outcomes, higher education and inequality. Her research has received international media attention and has been featured in publications such as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Vox, The Boston Globe, The Atlantic and the L.A. Times.

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. That same year, she and W. Kip Viscusi co-founded Vanderbilt’s Ph.D. Program in Law and Economics. She is a research fellow with IZA Institute for Labor Economics and was co-editor of the peer-reviewed IZA Journal of Labor Economics from summer 2015 through summer 2018. She also serves as associate editor of the Review of Economics of the Household. 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).

Before joining Vanderbilt’s faculty, Hersch was an adjunct law professor at Harvard Law School. She was a professor of economics at the University of Wyoming from 1989 to 1999 and has been a visiting professor of economics at Northwestern, Caltech, Duke, and Harvard.

Areas of Expertise (7)

Employment Law

Employment & Labour Law

Sex Discrimination

Labor Economics

Employment Discrimination

Discrimination in the Labor Markets

Employment and Labor Law

Education (2)

Northwestern University: Ph.D., Economics 1981

University of South Florida: B.A., Mathematics 1977

Affiliations (6)

  • American Economics Association
  • American Law and Economics Association
  • The Status of Women in the Economics Profession
  • Society of Economics of the Household
  • Society of Labor Economists
  • Southern Economic Association.

Selected Media Appearances (3)

Is $7.6M The Value Of Sexual Harassment?

Forbes  online


Title VII is the federal law that protects against sexual harassment, and the $300,000 cap on damages was instituted as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1991. “There were no damages other than back pay awarded prior to 1991, so at least this was progress,” Hersch says. She isn’t sure how they came up with the $300,000 limit, but Hersch's goal was to statistically figure out what the correct cap should be.

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Why You Can’t Catch Up

The New York Times  online


It is extremely difficult for students from less competitive colleges to gain admission to top graduate programs, including law and business schools, regardless of how good their grades and scores are. And those who do rarely attain the earnings power of peers who attended elite colleges. “The myth is that there are lots of entry points in the system, ways for people to rise up, to climb the educational ladder, but the numbers tell a different story,” Dr. Hersch said.

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‘Hazard pay’ for sexual harassment

The Conversation  online


“Sexual harassment in the workplace is so universally despised that people require some extra compensation for exposure to a sexually harassing environment,” says Joni Hersch, professor of law and economics at Vanderbilt University.

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Selected Articles (3)

Efficient Deterrence of Workplace Sexual Harassment

University of Chicago Legal Forum, Forthcoming

Joni Hersch

2019 "Although sexual harassment imposes costs on both victims and organizations, it is also costly for organizations to reduce sexual harassment. Legislation, education, training, and litigation have all been unsuccessful in eradicating workplace sexual harassment."

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The Gendered Burdens of Conviction and Collateral Consequences on Employment

Journal of Legislation,

Joni Hersch, Erin E Meyers


2019 "Ex-offenders are subject to a wide range of employment restrictions that limit the ability of individuals with a criminal background to earn a living. This Article argues that women involved in the criminal justice system likely suffer a greater income-related burden from criminal conviction than do men."

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Division of Marital Assets in High Asset Divorces

Vanderbilt Law Research Paper

Joni Hersch, Jennifer Bennett Shinall

2019 "Upon divorce, marital assets in most states are divided equitably, often with the underlying legal purpose of equalizing outcomes. To examine whether decision makers value economic considerations, such as opportunity cost, specialization, and bargaining power, we asked subjects to divide marital assets equitably between a breadwinning husband and non-breadwinning wife in a wealthy household."

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