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Olin Conference on Watershed Management

Don L. Coursey

Don L. Coursey is the Ameritech Professor of Public Policy Studies at the Irving B. Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies at the University of Chicago. From 1996 to 1998, Coursey served as dean of the Harris School. Coursey is an experimental economist whose research is concerned largely with eliciting reliable measures of preferences and monetary values for public goods, such as environmental quality. Coursey's research has focused on comparisons of demand for international environmental quality, environmental legislation in the United States, and public preferences for environmental outcomes relative to other social and economic goals.

Coursey recently led an investigation of environmental equity in Chicago by examining the relationship between the location of older hazardous industrial sites and the racial composition of the surrounding neighborhoods. In 1996, Coursey co-authored a report that examined the relationship between active hazardous sites (such as incinerators or landfills), minority populations, and public health concerns. The report, The Locality of Waste Sites Within the City of Chicago: A Demographic, Social and Economic Analysis, shows that the city’s patterns of industrialization and settlement play a key role in the site's locations, and found little historical evidence that waste-generating industries were deliberately placed in minority neighborhoods.

Coursey's 1994 report, The Revealed Demand for a Public Good: Evidence from Endangered and Threatened Species, was widely noted for its analysis of public expenditures per animal on the endangered species list. His research indicated that federal expenditures reflect public preferences for large, familiar animals such as panthers, bald eagles or grizzly bears rather than animals such as spiders, snails or insects, regardless of each species' biological value in the ecosystem. Using experiments in which participants risk real money, rather than hypothetical situations, Coursey has researched how people make decisions about what they are willing to pay for certain environmental outcomes, such as increasing the number of trees in a public park. Coursey has also consulted with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the wake of the Exxon Valdez oil spill to develop guidelines for federal response to environmental disasters.

Coursey joined the faculty of the Harris School in 1993. He received both a B.A. in mathematics and a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Arizona, and has previously taught at the University of Wyoming and Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. He has received the Burlington-Northern Foundation Award for Distinguished Achievement in Teaching; the Greater St. Louis Award for Excellence in University Teaching; and the John M. Olin School of Business Teacher of the Year Award in 1989 and 1990.

John M. Olin Conference on Watershed Management

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