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Economics of disasters examined in lecture series

Sept. 24, 2008

KALAMAZOO--The economic impact of natural and unnatural disasters will come into sharper focus during the 2008-09 Werner Sichel Lecture-Seminar Series, which begins Wednesday, Oct. 1, at Western Michigan University.

Now entering its 45th year, the speaker series will bring six nationally and internationally recognized economists to town to discuss the economic impacts generated by both natural and man-made disasters and the policy options that might reduce the nation's vulnerability to these events. All Sichel Series presentations are from 3 to 4:30 p.m. on Wednesdays in Room 3508 of Knauss Hall and are free and open to the public.

Leading off the series this year will Dr. Howard Kunreuther, the Cecilia Yen Koo Professor of Decision Sciences in the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. His presentation is titled "At War with the Weather: Managing Large-Scale Risks in a New Era of Catastrophes."

Kunreuther's areas of expertise include decision processes, low probability events, natural disasters, regulation and risk assessment. He has taught at the Wharton School since 1972 and since 1984, has also served as the co-director for the Center for Risk Management and Decision Processes at the school.

In addition to his academic appointments, he has served as program manager for the National Science Foundation's Decision Risk and Management Science Program, as a task leader at the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis, and as research adviser for the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics, the Ford Foundations and the Institute for Defense Analysis.

Kunreuther, who earned his doctoral degree at MIT, is a member of the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program's Advisory Committee on Earthquake Hazards Reduction, the Committee on Bioterrorism Risk of the National Academy of Science, and a member of the National Academies Board on Radioactive Waste Management. He also has served as a consultant to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Kunreuther's current research is focused on ways in which society can more effectively manage catastrophic risks. He is the co-author of "On Risk and Disaster: Lessons Learned from Hurricane Katrina" and "Catasrophe Modeling: A New Approach to Managing Risk."

The annual series is organized by the WMU Department of Economics and named in honor of longtime WMU economics professor, Dr. Werner Sichel, who retired in 2004. The series is cosponsored by the W. E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.

2008-09 Sichel Lecture-Seminar Series

Oct. 1--Dr. Howard Kunreuther, Koo Professor of Decision Sciences in the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, "At War with the Weather: Managing Large-Scale Risks in a New Era of Catastrophes."

Oct. 29--Dr. Jamie Kruse, director of the Center for Natural Hazards Research and professor of economics at East Carolina University, "Hurricane Recovery: Responsibility and Financing."

Nov. 19--Dr. Hal Cochrane, senior research scientist and fellow at the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere at Colorado State University, "The Economics of Disaster: Retrospect and Prospect."

March 11--Dr. David Hofman, an economist with the International Monetary Fund's Policy Development and Review Department, Crisis Resolution Issues Division, "Coping with Natural Disasters: The Role of Insurance and Capital Markets."

March 18--Dr. Anthony Yezer, professor of economics and director of the Center for Economic Research at George Washington University, "Expectations and the Unexpected Consequences of Public Policy Toward Natural and Man-Made Disasters."

April 8--Dr. Peter Boettke, deputy director of the James M. Buchanan Center for Political Economy, senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center and professor of Economics at George Mason University, "Private Solutions to Public Disasters: Self-Reliance and Social Resilience."

This year's series is directed by Dr. William Kern and Christine Moser, chair and assistant professor, respectively, in the WMU Department of Economics. For more information, contact Dr. William Kern at william.kern@wmich.edu or (269) 387-5554.

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, (269) 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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