University of Rochester

Conference Organized to Honor Economist Walter Oi

November 1, 1999

A conference to honor the work of Walter Y. Oi, Elmer B. Milliman Professor of Economics at the University of Rochester, will be held Nov. 6 in Schlegel Hall.

To mark Oi's 70th birthday, the conference for 60 invited guests will concentrate on Oi's research interests in labor economics and industrial organization. The speakers are: Sherwin Rosen, professor of economics at the University of Chicago and president-elect of the American Economic Association; Orley Ashenfelter, professor of economics at Princeton University and editor of The American Economic Review; Eric W. Bond, professor of economics at Penn State University; John C. Hause, professor of economics at SUNY Stony Brook; and P. Srinagesh, one of Oi's former students who is an economist with Charles River Associates.

Oi joined the University in 1967, and was chair of the economics department from 1976 to 1982. His research on employment, wages, prices, the economics of health and safety, and the effects of disabilities have earned him international recognition and broad scholarly acclaim.

As an authority on applied economic theory and labor markets, Oi helped persuade the Nixon administration and Congress to end the military draft in the early 1970s as staff economist for the President's Commission on an All-Volunteer Armed Force. His analysis of the unseen costs of military conscription played an important role in crystallizing the debate that led to the adoption of an all-volunteer military.

In reflecting on those times, Oi likes to point out that the commission was truly a Rochester operation with W. Allen Wallis, then University president, lobbying Richard Nixon and his advisers for the all-volunteer force. Before Nixon was sworn in, Wallis asked William H. Meckling, then dean of the University's graduate school of management, to assemble a research team with Oi as one of its members. In less than 10 days, the team prepared a position paper that developed a plan to end conscription. The idea for a presidential commission grew out of that position paper.

Oi's influence on U.S. public policy continued in later years as he served as vice chair of the President's Commission on Employment of People with Disabilities. Oi also worked as a consultant to the Department of Defense and the National Commission on State and Workmen's Compensation Laws.

In 1993, he was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Two years later, Oi was named a distinguished fellow of the American Economic Association for his intellectual achievements and contributions to the field. He also is a fellow of the Econometrics Society.

Previously, Oi taught at the University of Washington, Northwestern University, and Iowa State University before coming to Rochester. He holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of California at Los Angeles, and a doctorate in economics from the University of Chicago.