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William Kip VISCUSI

William Kip VISCUSI, economist in the field of Labour Markets, Public Policy; Industrial Organisation and Public Policy; General Economic Theory. Phi Beta Kappa; Allyn A. Young Prize, David A. Wells Prize, Harvard University, 1971, 1976; National Science Foundation, USA Fellow, 1972-1975.

Background

  • VISCUSI, William Kip was born in 1949 in Trenton, New Jersey, United States of America.

  • Education

    • Bachelor of Arts, MPP, Master of Arts, Doctor of Philosophy Harvard University, 1971, 1973, 1974, 1976.

    Career

    • Instructor Public Policy, Kennedy School, Harvard University, 1973-1976. Professor, Association Professor of Economics, Northwestern University, 1976-1978, 1979-1981. Deputy Director, Council Wage and Price Stability, Executive Office United States President, 1979-1981.

      Research Association, National Commission Employment Policy, 1981. Professor Business Admin and Policy Sciences, Director Center Study Business Regulation, Fuqua School Business, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, United States of America, Research Association, National Bureau of Economie Research, New York, New York, United States of America, since 1978. Assistant Editor, Public Policy, 1973-1976.

    Major achievements

    • Phi Beta Kappa; Allyn A. Young Prize, David A. Wells Prize, Harvard University, 1971, 1976. National Science Foundation, USA Fellow, 1972-1975.

    Views

    Most of my research has been concerned with the manner in which labour markets deal with health and safety risks. First, I showed that there is very strong correlation between industry risk measures and workers’ perceptions. In the case of compensating differentials, I have derived significant risk differentials using various measures of both the objective industry risk and the subjective job risk, yielding almost identical results.

    The implicit value of life derived fom these estimates is often quite substantial, in the vicinity of $23 million or more. My primary emphasis has been on an adaptive model of job choice where, in effect, workers are solving a two-armed bandit problem. Workers will display a systematic preference for jobs whose risks are not well understood, and there should be a positive relationship between job risks and worker turnover. The latter prediction has been borne out using several data sets.

    My analysis of the impact of government risk regulation failed to reveal any significant safety impact of the regulations. A potential problem of these policy interventions is the uncertainty they create for business decisions. Such uncertainty will depress productivity even in situations in which firms are risk-neutral and have accurate perceptions of the likelihood of future regulations.

    An alternative policy approach would be to remedy the informational inadequacies of the market directly. My recent research has focussed on the effect of chemical labels on individual behaviour. In terms of risk perceptions and other labour market impacts, I have shown that chemical labels have the expected impact.

    The most important result in this area is that it is not simply the risk conveyed by the information, but the informational content of the label that is also of consequence. As predicted by the two-armed bandit model, workers prefer to face risks known with less precision.

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    Born 1949
    (age 68)