In Memoriam

Werner Z. Hirsch -- economist and adviser to higher ed leaders

Werner Z. Hirsch, a UCLA economist for 46 years who wrote the first U.S. textbook on the economics of state and local government and guided California leaders in higher education on many issues, died July 10 at home in Los Angeles after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 89.

An expert in the field of public financing, law and economics, and urban economics - a field which he helped establish - Hirsch served as a consultant to many agencies, including the joint Economic Committee of Congress, the Internal Revenue Service, the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the National Commission on Civil Disorders. He completed the first comprehensive economic analysis of privatization of government services and came up with a systematic framework that helped government officials determine when the practice would likely be beneficial.

Informally, he served as an adviser to several UC presidents and chancellors and was part of a group of higher-education leaders that convened regularly to discuss various issues. He was also a member of key committees for the UCLA Academic Senate, the universitywide Senate and the UC Office of the President. From 2000 to 2006, he served on the Board of Directors of the Associated Students UCLA. He also sponsored a representational drawing competition for UCLA undergraduates and graduates and offered $1,500 in prizes.

"Werner Hirsch was a national expert on state and local finance, the use of outsourcing and contracting by governments, and educational policy," said his colleague and collaborator Daniel J.B. Mitchell, professor emeritus of the Anderson Graduate School of Management and the School of Public Affairs. "In his later years, he was particularly concerned with the funding of public higher-educational research universities such as UC. Hirsch viewed the so-called "Michigan Model" - named after an accord between the University of Michigan and the State of Michigan - as an example for UC to follow. The Michigan Model involves an accord between the university and state with regard to limited but guaranteed support, access for state residents, and greater autonomy of the university with regard to tuition and other matters."

Born in 1920 in the small German town of Linz on the Rhein, Hirsch and his family left Germany in 1936 before he finished high school to live in what is now Israel. In 1946, he immigrated to the United States and studied at UC Berkeley, where he received a B.S. degree with highest honors in 1947 and his Ph.D. in 1949 in economics.

His first academic appointment was in the Department of Economics at UC Berkeley, where he worked with Clark Kerr, who later became the first chancellor of Berkeley and the 12th president of UC. In 1951, Hirsch joined the United Nation's Economic Affairs Department; in 1952 the Brookings Institution; and in 1953 the Economics Department of Washington University in St. Louis.

While there, he became the founding director of the Institute of Urban and Regional Studies. Appointed to a committee established by the Ford Foundation to explore the promise of a new subfield of economics, called urban economics, Hirsch later developed a curriculum and research agenda for this new field at the institute.

In 1963, he became an economics professor at UCLA and founding director of its Institute of Government and Public Affairs. His study of the economics of state and local governments provided the material for the first textbook on this subject published in the United States. This work helped guide the California Legislature's reorganization of large urban school districts. He also joined scholars at the RAND Corporation to develop a new planning and budgeting system, which was used by a number of federal departments, including the Department of Defense, as well as some state and local governments.

In 1970, he decided to study law at the UCLA School of Law to contribute to the nascent field of law and economics, for which he later developed a curriculum and developed research using economic theory and econometrics to analyze the effects of existing laws.

His research findings appear in scholarly journals as well as in a number of books on urban economics, including two textbooks.

Although he retired in 1990, he continued to teach undergraduates, his colleagues said; most recently, a seminar in law and economics. "Werner was a great man, a great scholar, faculty member and friend of mine," said Chancellor Emeritus Charles E. Young, who added that Hirsch remained very actively involved with UCLA even after his retirement. "He will certainly be missed. He was a great member of the UCLA faculty and of the campus."

Hirsch is survived by his wife, Hilde Esther, sons Daniel and Joel, daughter Ilona and two grandsons. A campus memorial service is being planned for the fall.
Media Contact