environmental economist Ju-Chin Huang seeks is almost invisiblethe
value of beach sand, clean water, pure airand vastly important.
Her field is called
nonmarket valuation, and it is her consuming interest. Certain goodsendangered
species, state parks, or beach qualitydont have a price, but
they have an economic value. Whats the economic value of having
a state park instead of a subdivision?
In general, Huang explains, there are two methods for
determining nonmarket valuation. In the direct method, you just
ask people how much theyre willing to pay. For a state park, how
much will they pay to go there? For a spotted owl, how much to save its
Regarding the owl, people may say yes to five dollars
but not to fifteen, so, she says, the answer is in between, and
you analyze the intervals and tie them to characteristics like income
level, gender, location. Eventually its a cost benefit analysis
and results in a dollar amount.
The indirect method studies the consumption of private
goods. The housing market, for example, becomes an indirect method to
help researchers know how property values are affected by highway noise.
Huang lives about a mile from a highway herself, in Newburyport,
Mass., with her economist husband Gregory Brown and their gray tabby cat,
Hicks, named after Sir John R. Hicks, the 1972 Nobel Laureate
She grew up in Taiwan and went to National Taiwan University;
she has a Ph.D. in economics and statistics from North Carolina State
University. Huang has been with the Whittemore School for three years.
Directly and indirectly, her research provides information
that is useful to policy makersinformation that can be controversial
because it may influence decisions. In a pilot mail survey last year for
an on-going project, Huang sent questionnaires to random residents of
New Hampshire and Maine seeking their views on the costs and effects of
beach erosion control methods. The coastal line naturally moves
inland, but because of human activities along the coastal area, we try
to stop that, she says. So theres a conflict between
human activities and nature.
After the survey went out, Huang was interviewed by newspapers
and National Public Radio. Though she occasionally finds herself at the
juncture between interests, Huang is resolutely neutral. Im
an academic researcher, not a policy maker, she says. But
Id like to make a difference in terms of policy making. What Im
interested in is just naturally tied to environmental policies.
As a teacher of economics, Huang is rigorous and organized,
expecting the best from her students.
She really made us work hard, but she did that for
a reason, says Melissa Hebert 01, who studied introduction
to econometrics with Huang. She wanted us to take as much away from
the class as possible.
Huangs model as a teacher is her mentor at North
Carolina State, environmental economist
And Smith speaks as highly of her. Graduate students
like Ju-Chin keep me enthusiastic about teaching! he says. She
took several of my classes and, in each case, used her class paper as
an opportunity to do some genuinely new work. Many of those papers have
now been published.
She is the absolute ideal of what a professor can
be, comments Huangs colleague, economics professor Karen Conway.
As a new faculty member, she has reached levels in her teaching,
research, and service that would be difficult to meet for many tenured
faculty, who have taught for years.
Mary Peterson, University Publications