Isaac Ehrlich


Isaac Ehrlich.

Isaac Ehrlich


Isaac Ehrlich


SUNY Distinguished Professor (Research) of Economics
UB Distinguished Professor
Melvin H. Baker Professor of American Enterprise

Research Interests

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.


  • PhD (with distinction), Columbia University, 1970
  • BA (cum laude), Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 1964
  • Honorary Doctorate, (Docteur Honoris Causa), University of Orleans, France, 2002

Current Academic Positions

  • SUNY Distinguished Professor (Research) and UB Distinguished Professor of Economics
  • Melvin H. Baker Professor of American Enterprise in the School of Management
  • Director, Center of Human Capital, Technology Transfer, and Economic Growth and Development (“Center for Human Capital”) and the Provost-sponsored 3E human capital program.
  • Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Human Capital, University of Chicago Press
  • Research Associate, National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
  • Research Fellow, Institute for the Study of Labor, IZA Bonn Germany
  • Member Scientific Board of Advisors of the Wittgenstein Institute of Demography and Global Human Capital, Vienna, Austria
  • Member of New York State Governor David A. Paterson’s Council of Economic Advisers
  • Member, National Academy of Sciences on the Panel on the Economic and Fiscal Consequences of Immigration

Current Research

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.

Other Contributions and Distinctions

Selected Publications

  • “Market Insurance, Self-Insurance, and Self-Protection,” Journal of Political Economy (1972)
  • “Participation in Illegitimate Activities: An Economic Analysis,” Journal of Political Economy (1973)
  • “The Deterrent Effect of Capital Punishment: A Question of Life and Death,” American Economic Review(1975)
  • “Intergenerational Trade, Longevity, and Economic Growth” (with F. Lui), Journal of Political Economy(1991)
  • “Productivity Growth and Firm Ownership” (with G. Gallais-Hamonno, Z. Liu and R. Lutter), Journal of Political Economy (1994)
  • “Crime, Punishment, and the Market for Offenses,” Journal of Economic Perspectives (1996)
  • “The Problem of Population and Growth: A Survey of the Literature from Malthus to Models of Endogenous Population and Endogenous Growth,” Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control(1997)
  • “Social Security and the Real Economy: An Inquiry into Some Neglected Issues” (with J. Zhong),American Economic Review (1998)
  • “Sensitivity Analyses of the Deterrence Hypothesis: Let’s Keep the Econ in Econometrics” (with Z. Liu), the Journal of Law and Economics, (1999)
  • “Bureaucratic Corruption and Endogenous Economic Growth” (with F.T Lui), Journal of Political Economy(1999)
  • “Uncertain Lifetime, Life Protection, and the Value of Life Saving”, Journal of Health Economics (2000)
  • “Explaining Diversities in Age-Specific Life Expectancies and Values of Life Saving: A Numerical Analysis”, with Yong Yin, Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 31(2) 2005, 129-162;
  • “Endogenous Fertility, Longevity, and Economic Dynamics: Using a Malthusian Framework to Account for the Historical Evidence on Population and Economic Growth”, with Jinyoung Kim, Journal of Asian Economics, issue 15 (6) 2005, 789-806;
  • The Economics of Crime (co-edited with Z. Liu), Edward Elgar Publishing, (2006)“
  • “Social Security and Demographic trends: Theory and Evidence From the International Experience”, with J. Kim. Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 55-77, January 2007.
  • “The Evolution of Income and Fertility Inequalities over the Course of Economic Development: A Human Capital Perspective,” with J. Kim, Journal of Human Capital, University of Chicago Press, vol. 1, 2007, 137-174.” (2007)
  • “Human Capital, Endogenous Information Acquisition and Home Bias in Financial Markets,” Hong Kong Institute for Monetary Research. (2010)
  • “Taxing guns vs. taxing crime: An application of the “market for offenses model”,” Journal of Policy Modeling, Elsevier, vol. 32(5), pages 670-689, September. (2010)
  • “The Role of Human Capital in Imperfectly Informed International Financial Markets,” Working Papers 092010, Hong Kong Institute for Monetary Research. (2010)
  • Private Information, Human Capital, and Optimal “Home Bias” in Financial Markets,” Isaac Ehrlich & Jong Kook Shin & Yong Yin, 2011. Journal of Human Capital, University of Chicago Press, vol. 5(3).
  • Equilibrium Health Spending and Population Aging in a Model of Endogenous Growth: Will the GDP Share of Health Spending Keep Rising? With Yong Yin, Journal of Human Capital, Vol. 7, No. 4 (December, 2013).
  • “Immigration, Human Capital Formation and Endogenous Economic Growth”, with Jinyoung Kim, Journal of Human Capital, vol. 9, no. 4, pp. 518-563, 2015.
  • “Entrepreneurial Human Capital, the Market for Ideas, and Economic Growth”, with Dunli Li, in process of submission, Journal of Human Capital, Special issue honoring Nobel Laureate Ronald Coase.
  • “Was Higher Education a Major Channel through which the US Became an Economic Superpower in the 20th Century?, with AR Cook, Journal of the Asia Pacific Economy, Published online: 23 Oct 2018; printed version forthcoming.
  • Isaac Ehrlich, Adam Cook, and Yong Yin, "What Accounts for the US Ascendancy to Economic Superpower by the Early Twentieth Century? The Morrill Act–Human Capital Hypothesis," Journal of Human Capital 12, no. 2 (Summer 2018): 233-281.
  • Isaac Ehrlich and Yong Yin. “A Cross-Country Comparison of Old-Age Financial Readiness in Asian Countries versus the United States: The Case of Japan and the Republic of Korea, Asian Development Review, Vol. 39, No. 1, pp. 5–49.