University of Rochester

Economist Walter Oi Honored by U.S. Defense Department

January 18, 2000

Walter Y. Oi, Elmer B. Milliman Professor of Economics at the University of Rochester, has received the Secretary of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service for his work leading to the adoption of an all-volunteer military.

Signed by Defense Secretary William S. Cohen, the citation praises Oi's analyses of military conscription. His detailing of the hidden costs of the draft played an important role in crystallizing the debate that ended the draft.

The citation notes that "His theoretical and empirical research, published in the American Economic Review and his later work for the President's Commission, became the foundation upon which the All-Volunteer Force was built."

Oi's work on conscription also has been praised by Milton Friedman. In the memoirs the Nobel Prize-winning economist co-wrote with his wife, Two Lucky People , he recalls Oi's presentation at a 1966 conference on the draft.

"He gave an eloquent paper presenting the case for ending the draft on grounds of both principle and expediency," wrote Friedman, who was one of Oi's teachers at the University of Chicago. "He conveyed a clear sense of moral outrage on an issue about which he had no conceivable personal ax to grind. To me, it was the high point of the conference."

An authority on applied economic theory and labor markets, Oi was recently honored at a conference marking his 70th birthday.

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.