Tag: Faculty

When the leaked draft of a U.S. Supreme Court majority opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization hit the press, suggesting the court is likely to overturn the Roe v. Wade precedent guaranteeing women the right to abortions, much of the conversation focused on how such a ruling would give Democrats a boost in the 2022 congressional elections.

However, despite intense political discourse in the media, the leak does not appear to have changed the minds of voters about the importance of the abortion issue. The finding is part of a forthcoming study conducted by marketing researchers at Washington University in St. Louis and the University of California, Los Angeles.

The research also highlights how Democrats might better frame the abortion issue to attract new supporters and motivate their base ahead of elections.

Anticipating a controversial summer ruling in the Dobbs case, Raphael Thomadsen and Song Yao at WashU’s Olin Business School and Robert Zeithammer at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, surveyed 350 potential voters — prior to the May 2 leak — about their support for hypothetical candidates based on salient issues including taxes, illegal immigration, climate change, health insurance, poverty and abortion. According to the authors, an advantage of this conjoint style of polling is that it reveals not only which candidate the respondent supports, but also how strongly the respondent feels about each issue.

Shortly after the leak, the team surveyed potential voters again—300 in all—to see how the news had affected candidate preference. Even before the leak, abortion was an important issue to most voters. The polls showed that abortion had, on average, a 30% weight in respondents’ candidate preference.

Much to their surprise, though, the authors discovered the leak did not significantly increase the weight voters place on abortion in comparison with other issues the poll considered. For Democrats, that number remained steady at 32% following the leak. For Republicans, that number dipped modestly from 29% to 27% following the leak.


“While the average importance of abortion to voters was incredibly consistent, there is some evidence that abortion became slightly less important of an issue to Republicans after the leak, although the shift is still fairly small,” said Yao, associate professor of marketing at Olin Business School.

“Further, we see that abortion became a more important issue for voters who voted for someone other than Biden or Trump,” Yao said. “However, that group represents just under 2% of the voting population, so even if the Democrats captured these individuals’ votes, it would be hard to see the impact of this shift in the balance of power that would emerge this fall.”

Democrats’ current strategy is flawed

According to Thomadsen, professor of marketing at Olin Business School, there are two issues with the way that Democrats are trying to frame the abortion debate to gain an electoral advantage.


“First, we see the Democrats trying to brand the Republicans as being anti-choice. However, this preference is already baked into the support that Democrats and Republicans are currently getting,” Thomadsen said.

“What would really change the abortion debate, however, is that Americans, as a whole, are strongly against abortion prohibitions in the case of rape, incest or to save the health of a mother. Even many Republicans would prefer abortion being legal for a short amount of time — we tested 12 weeks — to having no exceptions made to the law.”

The team’s most recent simulations suggest that if Democrats can paint the Republican-enacted laws as not allowing for these exceptions, they could increase their net electoral advantage by up to 6%.

“This 6% would reflect a small increase in Democratic votes, but a sizable shift in Republicans who would decide not to vote,” Thomadsen said.

‘Even many Republicans would prefer abortion being legal for a short amount of time — we tested 12 weeks — to having no exceptions made to the law.’

Raphael Thomadsen

Democrats also need to include men in their abortion messaging, Thomadsen said.

“Abortion is framed as an issue for women. However, we find that men are nearly as passionate — and pro-choice — about abortion as women,” he said. “While abortion is an issue about women’s rights, it is important for Democrats to use the issue to rally both men and women, not just women.”

Finally, Thomadsen noted that Democrats also could make inroads with voters on economic issues.

“While the focus of this study was to see how Americans’ preferences shifted toward abortion, we also measured the preferences for many other policies,” he said.  

“We find that fixing health insurance by expanding Medicare to everyone who is not insured is fairly popular,” Thomadsen said. “Similarly, if the Democrats proposed cutting taxes, that would also bring a lot of support.

“This could be done in a very progressive way. For example, reducing each household’s taxes by $2,000, and providing refundable tax credits for those who owe less than a full $2,000 in taxes, is a very popular idea.”

Republicans also gain from lowering taxes, Thomadsen noted, but that is baked into their status quo numbers.

The working paper will be available soon and data is available to media upon request.

Dennis Zhang, Olin associate professor of supply chain and technology, has been named a co-winner of the 2022 Production and Operations Management Society (POMS) Early Career Research Accomplishments.

Dennis Zhang

The award is one of the most prestigious honors in the operations management field. Zhang received the award in April during the POMS conference, which was virtual because of COVID concerns.

“I am honored to receive this recognition,” Zhang said. “This is very motivating, and I hope to continue contributing to the field through research and service.”

POMS chose Zhang based on his contribution to platform operations, especially retail platform operations, as well as his contribution to data-driven methodologies in operations, such as field experiments and applied machine learning.

For example, Zhang’s paper, “Reducing Discrimination with Reviews in the Sharing Economy: Evidence from Field Experiments on Airbnb,” published in Management Science, is the first study on how to use review information to fight against statistical discrimination on sharing platforms.

And “Customer Choice Models vs. Machine Learning: Finding Optimal Product Displays on Alibaba” is the first to implement a choice-model-based assortment optimization algorithm in a large-scale ecommerce setting. Operations Research published the paper.

Zhang joined the Olin Business School in 2016. His research focuses on operations in innovative marketplaces and in the public sector. He has built theoretical models to extract reliable insights from data and uses data to improve existing models. Before he joined the Olin faculty, he finished his PhD at Northwestern University and worked at Google as a machine learning software engineer.

The award co-winners are Ruomeng Cui of Emory University and Hummy Song of the University of Pennsylvania.

Etsy sellers are taking their battle with Etsy Inc. public this week to protest higher fees and other changes the company says are necessary to compete for shoppers.

Starting Monday, April 11, thousands of Etsy sellers put their shops on “vacation mode,” urging customers to boycott the platform for a week.

Etsy is a global online marketplace where people come together to make, sell, buy and collect unique items. People create individual virtual storefronts and sell millions of items including art, jewelry, face masks, furniture, pottery, on and on.

Kaitlin Daniels headshot

Etsy CEO Josh Silverman announced in February that, while sales and revenue were at all-time highs, transaction fees would increase 30% in April. Sellers, in turn, organized a collective strike through the platform Coworker.org.

“I think this is one more instance of workers flexing their bargaining power. We see this playing out in the broader economy in the form of rising wages and ‘the great resignation,’” said Kaitlin Daniels, assistant professor of supply chain, operations and technology at Olin. Her research focuses on the operations of gig-economy platforms and the resulting impact on consumer and service provider welfare.

Just the latest in a series of changes for sellers

The fee increase is just the latest in a series of changes that irk Etsy sellers.

“It’s worth noticing that Etsy worker complaints extend beyond the fee increase,” Daniels said. “They are also demanding changes to the Star Seller program and the offsite ads program.”

The Star Seller program rates sellers’ customer service, e.g. responding to 95% of emails within 24 hours. Etsy’s discovery algorithm prioritizes sellers in part based on their Star Seller status. 

The offsite ads program allows Etsy to promote sellers through paid ads on other websites. This program automatically charges the promoted seller a 12% fee (about twice the usual fee) if the ad produces a purchase. Most sellers cannot opt out of these offsite ads.

“These programs restrict how sellers run their Etsy business, which limits sellers’ flexibility in how they balance their Etsy work with the rest of their lives. Since flexibility is one of the main reasons people say they work gigs, it is not surprising that these programs are unpopular.”

If you run into Olin’s Erik Dane at an academic conference, watch out.

Dane, an associate professor of organizational behavior, will be happy to talk with you about data you’re analyzing, methodological trends, the Cardinals, the Cubs, the endorphins of running.


But he and his coauthor, Kevin Rockmann, professor of management at George Mason University, also might ask you the pointed question they, as editors of the Academy of Management Discoveries, have been asking people for years:

“How often do you open the latest issue of one of our leading journals and read each article—or even one article—in its entirety?”

Dane and Rockmann threw down the gauntlet in a March 7 article for AACSB International, The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business: “It’s Time for Academics to Write Differently.”

The snooze button

“Stop hitting the ‘snooze’ button on your academic writing,” they implore readers. “Instead, produce scholarship that audiences will not only read but—dare we say it—enjoy.”

The article is based on research they published last year in the Academy of Management Discoveries, “Listen up! Revitalizing our writing to stir our readers and supercharge our thinking.”

They surveyed members of the journal’s editorial review board, asking them to rate two lists. The first: Nineteen top academic journals from the Financial Times 50’s list of prominent journals in business school disciplines. The second list contained 25 popular press outlets that report on management research (e.g., The Atlantic, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal).

“The results were startling,” Dane said. “Our 77 respondents ranked the nonscientific journals higher, not just for enjoyability, which is troubling enough, but also for informational value.”

If their small study is an indication, he said, “even scholars are put off by academic writing.”

More citations for your work

Dane and Rockmann, however, are on a mission to drive home these points:

  • Researchers serve their careers and their audiences better by writing in more accessible prose.
  • When scholars experiment with literary techniques, they improve their thinking as well as their writing.
  • Established journals could begin promoting fresher academic writing by posting public-facing content on their websites, reserving complete papers for print.

“We argue that there are several compelling reasons for academics to revitalize our writing,” they say.

Vigorous writing can aid career advancement. “Studies have shown that better-written papers—those that use techniques such as first-person narration and vivid contextual detail, and go easy on scientific jargon—are more broadly cited on the whole.”

Accessible writing expands the audience for ideas. “By continuing to write only for other scientists (who mostly, as we’ve seen, prefer to get their knowledge elsewhere), we cede the practitioner audience to Harvard Business Review, Sloan Management Review and other venues for ‘translational writing.’”

Experimenting with literary techniques can improve scholars’ thinking as well as writing. “Too often, we approach our subject matter with our ‘scientist’ hat already fixed in place. Inflexible habits of thought don’t do justice to the world’s phenomena—or our own theory-making. If we looked at the world with an eye toward dramatizing rather than dissecting, we might see possibilities and points of view that would otherwise remain invisible within our cognitive comfort zone.”

In the wake of the slap heard ‘round the world—actor Will Smith’s blow to comedian Chris Rock’s left cheek—scholars in the business of entertainment at the Olin Business School say the situation is shot through with reputational risk.

But not where you might think.

In the middle of the ABC TV broadcast of the Oscars on March 27, Rock’s joke at the expense of actor Jada Pinkett Smith prompted her husband to bound onto the stage and smack the comedian. Soon after, Smith twice shouted at Rock—using an expletive both times—to not mention his wife’s name.

Olin finance Professor Tim Solberg, academic director for the school’s minor in the business of the arts, said the biggest risk may lie within the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences itself.

As the NAACP in a statement decried “the way casual violence was normalized tonight,” the Academy Awards leadership was considering its response amid calls to take disciplinary action.


“The academy itself may suffer damage if it does not take action,” Solberg said, noting the academy issued a statement saying it does not approve of violence. “There is a lot of discussion on the radio and on the web around this as it relates to a public display of violence by highly visible and admired stars.”

Solberg raised the prospect of the academy stripping Smith of his Oscar for best actor in a motion picture for his role as the father of tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams in “King Richard.” Smith received the award about 45 minutes after the slapping incident. The act of violence could constitute a violation of the academy’s code of conduct.

On Monday, the academy issued a statement condemning the action and noting it would start a formal review to “explore further action and consequences in accordance with our bylaws, standards of conduct and California law.”

Ironically, Solberg said, Smith and Rock may suffer no ill effect in their earnings. “The two stars have their followings and the audience is segmented,” he said. “They will probably not have a drop in earnings as a result. In that sense, their brand is not harmed financially.”

Glenn MacDonald, the John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and Strategy at WashU’s Olin School, agreed with Solberg.


“In entertainment, they often say there is no such thing as bad publicity. Obviously, getting attention for doing something people would generally find disgusting is a counterexample,” said MacDonald, who teaches a course in the economics of entertainment at Olin. “But a wise guy comedian getting hit on TV by a very physical guy for making a bad comment about the latter’s wife is really just extra attention for a couple of guys in the latter stages of their careers.

Rock’s joke made reference to Pinkett Smith’s hair. She has spoken of her hair loss as a result of alopecia.

Solberg noted a fourth potential stakeholder that could be affected: the movie studios. “While financially, the stars have their brand and their following, unless a studio boycotts or the public cancels Will Smith—a major box office star making money for the company—due to the public show of violence, he will maintain his financial draw even if his brand is tarnished,” Solberg said.