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Joni Hersch

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

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


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.

Media Appearances

  • Is $7.6M The Value Of Sexual Harassment?

    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.

    March 16th, 2019

  • Why You Can’t Catch Up

    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.

    August 1st, 2014

  • ‘Hazard pay’ for sexual harassment

    “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.

    December 6th, 2011


Ph.D., Northwestern University

B.A., University of South Florida


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