April 24, 2005
Fordham's New CrimProf Hires: Part 1: John Pfaff
I was raised in Buffalo, New York, where my father is an Economics professor. Despite (and not because of) that, I left to attend college at the University of Chicago confident that I would never take an Economics course. Not surprisingly, I graduated with a BA in Economics in 1997 and stayed at Chicago to start work on my PhD in Economics the very next quarter. During my first year of graduate school I discovered that Law and Economics held the most interest for me, so once I had finished all my coursework for Economics, I walked across the street to start taking classes at the Law School. I finished law school in 2003 and then clerked for Judge Stephen F. Williams on the DC Circuit during the 2003-04 term. I've spent the past year as the John M. Olin Fellow at the Northwestern School of Law, and I plan to finish graduate school by the time I move to New York City to start teaching at Fordham.
In terms of people who have influenced me, Gary Becker, Bernard Harcourt, Steven Levitt, and Eric Posner have all played big roles. Perhaps the most important thing I have learned from them is importance of rigorous empirical work that remains grounded in economic theory. My area of
interest in particular is the empirical analysis of criminal law. My big project over the next few years is to try to develop a detailed empirical model that might explain what forces have driven the dramatic rise over the past 30 years of the prison population in the United States and where in
the process (at arrest, prosecution, or sentencing, for example) they act. As part of this, I'm currently finishing a paper which examines the efficacy of voluntary criminal sentencing guidelines (finding that they work, though not as well as the presumptive guidelines no longer valid in
the wake of Blakely). I'm also planning to examine more closely how the political process interacts with sentencing behavior and how federal policies influence criminal sentencing in the states.
I am really looking forward to moving to New York and beginning to work and teach at Fordham. I have always enjoyed teaching -- I started to teach as a graduate student the first quarter Chicago allowed me -- and I am excited to (officially) start my academic career.
Please send us information on the new CrimProfs hired by your school, and we'll introduce them to the profession. [Mark Godsey]