Human capital and income distribution; economic growth and development; economics of health and value of life savings; Social Security and population aging; economics of information and uncertainty; economics of law, crime and justice
Professor Ehrlich’s research focuses on the role of human capital and social institutions in the economy. It includes a wide range of applications of economic theory to the economics of crime and justice, uncertainty and insurance, health and longevity, law and economics, advertising and information, social security, asset management and financial markets, and economic growth and development. He is the author of 80 original and reprinted articles in major refereed journals and collections, including two books and a special journal issue, and his widely cited work – he is listed among the 100 most cited economists on several published surveys – has been supported by numerous grants from the National Science Foundation and other Federal agencies, including a major USAID grant to study economic development and the role of free enterprise.
In 2006, Prof. Ehrlich was awarded the prestigious faculty development grant from the New York Office of Science, Technology, and Academic research (NYSTAR), which he has used to establish a “Signature Center of Excellence on Human Capital, Technology Transfer, and Economic Growth and Development”. In April 2004 he was appointed Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic research to serve in the Health Economics program. In December 2006 he was appointed by the Board of University of Chicago Publications Founding Editor-in-Chief of the new Journal of Human Capital, published by the University of Chicago Press (UCP), which publishes some of the top journals in economics. See web page for the JHC at: http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/loi/jhc/
In recognition of his scholarly contributions Professor Ehrlich was promoted in March 2006 to the rank of SUNY Distinguished Professor, the highest academic rank in the SUNY system (see Press releases at http://www.buffalo.edu/news/fast-execute.cgi/article-page.html?article=78280009, and an article in the UB Reporter. He was previously promoted to the University at Buffalo’s rank of UB Distinguished Professor in 2002. He was also awarded an Honorary Doctorate (Docteur Honoris Causa) from the University of Orleans, France, in Fall 2002.
At UB, Professor Ehrlich currently serves as Professor of the Department of Economics in the College of Arts and Sciences, Melvin H. Baker Professor of American Enterprise in the School of Management, and Director of the Center of Excellence on Human capital, technology transfer, and Economic growth and Development. His professional affiliations include appointments as Research Associate (a senior title) at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), Honorary Professor at the City University of Hong Kong, Research Associate of the Institute of Policy Analysis of the University of Toronto, and member of the prestigious Mont Pellerin Society. In 2007 he was awarded a contract by the Comptroller of New York State, Mr. Thomas P. DiNapoli as Principal Investigator to develop a forecasting model of tax revenues and provide forecasts of State tax revenues along with a team of research associates at the Center of Excellence on Human Capital. See Press release at http://www.buffalo.edu/ubreporter/archive/vol39/vol39n29/articles/EhrlichBudget.html.
In July 2008 he was appointed to serve on the Panel of Economic Advisors of New York Governor, David A. Patterson, see Press Releases at http://www.buffalo.edu/news/9628, http://www.cas.buffalo.edu/, and http://mgt.buffalo.edu/about/news.host.html/content/shared/mgt/news/erlichcouncil.detail.html.
His previous academic affiliations include appointments as a lecturer at the Tel-Aviv University, an Associate Professor at the University of Chicago, and a Senior Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, where he was one of the founders of the Law and Economics Project. He has also been a Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford, and a Visiting Professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. He has given numerous public lectures and seminars in Austria, Canada, China, Colombia, France, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, Singapore, Switzerland, Taiwan , and Uruguay .
Who’s Who in Economics: A Biographical Dictionary of Major Economists 1700-1980, and all of its later updates, and has contributed entries on Crime and Punishment and the Economics of Criminal Justice in all editions of The New Palgrave: A Dictionary of Economics, and The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics and the Law. His previous public service activities include membership on President Ronald Reagan’s Health Policy Advisory Group and the Transition Team on Health Policy, and the Hong Kong Government’s Health Services Committee and its Expert Subcommittee on Grant Applications and Awards, headed by Hon. Elizabeth Wong, Secretary of Health and Welfare in Governor Chris Patton’s Administration.
Starting in 2014, Prof. Ehrlich has been a key member in the National Academy of Sciences panel on the Economic and Fiscal Impacts of Immigration.
Research contributions by Professor Ehrlich are based on innovative applications of general economic theory to study diverse human behavior and social institutions, with particular emphasis on the role of Human Capital, time, information, and uncertainty. The most provocative illustration concerns participation in illegitimate activities and the development of a ‘market model’ of crime. Use of optimization and equilibrium analysis along with econometric methodology to explain variations in the incidence of crime and corruption and optimal crime control and criminal justice policies across place and time has challenged received theories in criminology and opened up a new research frontier in economics.
Work on behavior under uncertainty has provided a new framework for studying the joint demand for market insurance, self-Insurance, and self- and life-protection. Work on advertising links advertising and other selling efforts by firms to the demand for information by consumers and to the division of labor between buyers and sellers in the production of desired information about the characteristics of market goods.
Work on health and longevity deals with length or quantity of life as a distinct choice, which competes with aspects of the quality of life over the allocation of lifetime resources. It analyzes investment in health and longevity as an integral part of both human capital theory and the general theory of self-protection against detrimental risks to life. The model offers insights concerning both the time trend and significant diversities in life expectancies and assessments of ‘value-of-life-saving’ measures across population groups and over time.
Work on endogenous economic growth applies human capital theory and time allocation within families and firms to explain income growth and income inequality in both developing and developed countries. This work focuses on the role of the family in human capital formation and the contribution of specific motivating and institutional forces in influencing the diversity and pace of productivity growth at the micro (family and firm) and macro levels. These forces include altruism, the need for old-age security, private vs. public ownership of economic resources, and government control of private economic activity. The work also links economic growth with the aging of the population in developed countries and assesses the incentive effects of conventional social insurance plans on the economy’s growth path.
Work on the role of human capital in asset management and the market for risky assets seeks to augment received theories in financial economics, which treated the prices of risky assets as (fully-) information revealing by modeling the process under which market prices become informative. This work focuses on the role of human capital endowments and private information collection and their implications for portfolio choices, market-price volatility, equity premiums, and the distribution of both earnings and financial income.
Ehrlich’s work on human capital and endogenous growth has recently been recognized through a major Faculty Development Award from the New York Office of Science, Technology and Academic Research, which he has used to established the Center of Excellence on Human Capital, Technology Transfer, and Economic Growth And Development 2006-2020. This development was bolstered in 2007 by his appointment as Founding Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Human Capital (JHC), published by the University of Chicago Press, which is also housed at the Center.
Apart from publishing his work in major refereed journals and books, Professor Ehrlich has also contributed numerous articles in the US and international media on the subject of human capital and its role in sustained economic development, as well as on social security reform and the economics of crime.
Selected to contribute entries in the following authoritative encyclopedic collections:
A column in The New York Times by David Brooks on the need for Republicans to find a presidential candidate who can transcend current political categories and lay out a human-capital agenda cites research conducted by Isaac Ehrlich, SUNY and UB Distinguished Professor and chair of the Department of Economics, who showed that the United States became the richest country because, in the 19th and 20th centuries, it had the most schooling and the best circumstances to help people develop their own capacities. The NY Times article, and the NBER paper on which it is based, may be read online.