Tag: Faculty

Dean Mark Taylor is definitely doing his part to contribute to Olin’s strategic priority to build a stronger and broader reputation for research with impact.

According to the latest from Research Papers in Economics (RePEc), Taylor is the third most influential researcher in international finance in the world. In addition, the dean is in the top 10 of international finance researchers globally in terms of research citations, according to Google Scholar.

RePEc is a collaborative effort of hundreds of volunteers in 101 countries to enhance the dissemination of research in economics and related sciences. 

Taylor has long been one of the most highly cited financial economists. His research on exchange rates and international financial markets has been published extensively in many of the world’s leading academic and practitioner journals. He is also the author or co-author of a number of books, including two of the leading European textbooks in economics and macroeconomics. 

Domestic violence and illicit drug use plummeted among women who realized they could live decades longer than they’d expected because of a new HIV treatment, according to a new study.

The introduction of the medical treatment, Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy, dramatically improved the health and longevity of HIV-positive women in the study.

The women’s lives subsequently improved dramatically in two other ways: They experienced 15% less domestic violence, and their drug abuse plunged by 15-20%.

That’s according to “Health, Human Capital and Domestic Violence,” forthcoming in the Journal of Human Resources. It’s the first study to show that interventions that improve women’s health and longevity can reduce both domestic violence and illicit drug use, the authors say.

The women’s improvement also could lead to increased labor market productivity, the authors point out.

“Innovations in healthcare can have indirect effects on things that you may not immediately expect,” said coauthor Barton H. Hamilton, Olin’s Robert Brookings Smith Distinguished Professor of Economics, Management and Entrepreneurship. Innovations in healthcare are among his research interests.

Hamilton and Robert A. Pollak, Olin’s Hernreich Distinguished Professor of Economics, collaborated with four other authors on the research: Nicholas W. Papageorge of Johns Hopkins University, Gwyn C. Pauley of the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Mardge Cohen of Rush University and Tracey E. Wilson of the State University of New York.

‘A lot more health capital’

Participants in the study were recruited from HIV primary care clinics, hospital-based programs, research programs, community outreach sites, women’s support groups, drug rehabilitation programs, HIV testing sites and referrals from enrolled participants. The study began in 1994, and a second cohort was added to the sample in 2001-2002.

“Suppose all of a sudden somebody tells you that you’re going to live for another 30 years instead of expecting that you’ll die in the next five years? What are you going to do?” Hamilton asks.

“Now, all of a sudden, you have a lot more health capital than you ever thought you had. And how does that affect the kind of decisions and investments you make?”

One might be to get out of an abusive relationship. Another: to stop using cocaine, heroin and other drugs.

Relying on surveys and a series of robustness checks, the research focused on women who were HIV-positive but not yet symptomatic. For the women, the treatment known as HAART had no immediate impact on symptoms. But it did improve their expected health and lengthened their expected lifetimes.

“This incentivized them to make costly upfront investments with future payoffs,” Hamilton said. “We treat the avoidance of domestic violence, including leaving an abusive relationship, as such an investment.”

The cost of domestic violence

The annual cost of domestic violence—including direct medical expenditures and losses to productivity—is estimated at $5.8 billion. The authors point out that $5.8 billion is probably “a gross under-estimation” because it does not include costs to the justice system or social services.

“We view health as a form of human capital that not only increases longevity, but also improves the quality of life and increases labor market productivity,” Hamilton said.

The researchers used data from a longitudinal study, the Women’s Intra-Agency HIV Study, which provided rich information on health, sociodemographic characteristics, domestic violence and illicit drug use.

Improving their options

HAART enhanced the women’s expected well-being and economic resources, such as income, improving their options outside of violent partnerships.

Following similar logic, the researchers assessed the effect of HAART on another investment with upfront costs and future payoffs: reducing the use of illicit drugs. Upfront costs include withdrawal symptoms and depression, while benefits include better future health and fewer barriers to employment.

“In economics, we don’t have too many situations where we can study such a big shock—in the sense of now you’re going to get an extra 30 years of life,” Hamilton said.

HAART transformed HIV infection from a virtual death sentence into a manageable, chronic condition, reducing mortality rates by more than 80% within two years of its introduction.

“What we saw was a pretty drastic change in incentives,” the biggest one being a chance for a longer life, Hamilton said. “And, as a consequence, we saw a pretty significant response.”

P. Konstantina Kiousis
P. Konstantina Kiousis

Konstantina Kiousis, senior lecturer in business management, was named one of Poets & Quants for Undergrads Favorite Professors of Business Majors.

Kiousis was nominated by Andrew Bower, her former student and teaching assistant, for “her passion for business strategy and care for her students.” Bower testified to her dedication to keeping lectures current in order to promote critical thinking among her students.

According to Bowen, her attitude with TAs promotes a “familial culture,” which leads to mentorship opportunities between juniors and seniors.

“While it may sound cliché, Dr. K truly changes lives each semester,” said Bowen.

The 11 professors were nominated by Poet & Quant’s list of the Best and Brightest Undergrad Business Majors of 2019. The educators were praised for ability to leave lessons that resonate for a lifetime, both inside and outside the classroom. These professors have the “it” factor: “comfortable in their own skin and able to seamlessly adapt to whatever their students need.”

Jackson Nickerson

For only the second time in the organization’s history, the Strategic Management Society has bestowed its educational impact award—this time, on WashU Olin’s Jackson Nickerson.

The society, established to “promote and encourage superior research and practice” in the field of strategic management, will formally present the award to Nickerson at its annual conference in Minneapolis this weekend. Nickerson is a non-resident senior fellow in government studies at the Brookings Institution and Olin’s Frahm Family Professor of Organization and Strategy.

“Jackson has made seminal contributions to management education for graduate students, executives, and government leaders,” the organization reported on its website. “He has been an inspiring and insightful teacher for more than 20 years. He has also authored more than 40 case studies, and he has been a true innovator in pedagogy, with some ground-breaking ideas about how to teach strategy to executives and government leaders.”

Lamar Pierce, professor of organization and strategy and associate dean for the Olin-Brookings Partnership, nominated Nickerson for the award, paying particular attention to his work as an instructor at Brookings and his influence on public sector leaders in Washington, DC.

“We estimate that, over the past decade, more than 15,000 students have attended onsite and open enrollment courses at Brookings in the programs that Jackson launched,” Pierce wrote. “I have no doubt that his impact on the federal government has been in the hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Pierce also commented on Nickerson’s influence and mentorship on junior faculty, noting that Nickerson “pulled me off of the academic scrap heap and gave me a job when no one else would.”

The ‘right’ questions

Daniel Elfenbein, associate professor of strategy at Olin, will introduce Nickerson at the ceremony and also nominated his colleague in a two-page letter, commenting that Nickerson’s curriculum and research “helped transform student outcomes” at the business school.

“I had several opportunities to be involved in courses taught by Dr. Nickerson as part of a custom-designed program for senior executives in Virginia,” said former student Sabrina C. Clark, director of VA Voluntary Service at the Veterans Administration in DC. “Jackson’s model for asking the ‘right’ questions to arrive at ‘right’ solutions is still powerfully resonant and relevant. Without a doubt, that single nugget changed the trajectory of my career.”

Another former student, Tim Keasling, deputy director of intelligence for the Army National Guard, recalled taking a class in which he and the professor had slightly different goals: “My goal was to pass the class,” Keasling recalled. “Professor Nickerson’s objective was for me to get my paper published. I passed the course and had my paper published!”

Using an analysis of thousands of words spoken by corporate executives, Olin’s Jared Jennings and three other researchers have created a new way to help lenders make better loan decisions.

Their study uses qualitative information to assess a business’ credit risk. “It’s all based on language,” Jennings, an associate professor of accounting, said in an interview.  “Our measure captures unique attributes of credit risk that are not readily identified by existing measures.”

Jared Jennings

As it turns out, the words company officials use in quarterly earnings calls with investors and analysts can be, well, telling.

“Our results suggest that our measure improves the ability to predict future bankruptcies, future interest spreads and future credit rating downgrades,” Jennings said.

Evidence also suggests their measure more consistently captures a borrower’s credit risk than other methods.

They call their measure the “text-based credit score,” or “TCR Score.” The TCR Score could be particularly useful when other market-based measures of a firm’s credit risk aren’t available, Jennings said. “Our analyses suggest that only about 22% of firms with long-term debt are assigned credit ratings by leading rating agencies.”

Their working paper, “Measuring credit risk using qualitative disclosure,” is under revision for the Review of Accounting Studies.

‘A tighter link’

Traditional credit risk measures mostly use numerical, or quantitative, data.

Jennings and coresearchers set out to measure the spoken word. They used three machine-learning methods to create a measure of credit risk based on information disclosed in 132,060 conference call transcripts from 2003-2016.

Jennings, John Donovan of the University of Notre Dame, Kevin Koharki of Purdue University and Joshua Lee of the University of Georgia grouped into categories hundreds of top words, phrases and topics that their machine-learning methods identified.

One method identified language associated with liquidity, debt and performance. The other two identified phrases associated with performance, industry and accounting.

“By connecting the language identified by the machine-learning methods to economic intuition, we are able to draw a tighter link between the construct of credit risk and our proxy,” the researchers write.

The study adds to the growing body of research using machine-learning methods to gather information from conference calls and 10-Ks to explain accruals, future cash flows, fraud and other outcomes.

It also adds to research that examines other useful signals extracted from conference calls, such as vocal and video cues, and tone. (See “When Upbeat Language Belies Downbeat Results,” about research by Olin’s Xiumin Martin and Guofu Zhou.)

“We expect that practitioners and academics could use our measure to supplement existing credit risk models to obtain a more comprehensive and independent estimate of credit risk,” Jennings and co-researchers write.

Yulia Nevskaya’s first foray into the World of Warcraft started one evening at 7 p.m. She created an avatar to represent her in the online video game and set off to explore another land.

“It’s like another Earth. It looked like paradise,” Nevskaya said. “I was completely immersed.”

The next thing she knew, it was 4 a.m. 

Yulia Nevskaya

Nevskaya is an assistant professor of marketing at WashU Olin who studies, among other things, how consumers form habits. Her recent research used data that a bot gleaned from World of Warcraft, a massively popular multiplayer role-playing computer game set in a fantasy universe.

Blizzard Entertainment launched the game in 2004, and by 2011, it had more than 10 million subscribers worldwide. A character in World of Warcraft spends, on average, 12.5 hours per week playing the game, and more than 53 million people in the US played online games at least once a month in 2016.

The study emerges against a backdrop of societal concern over the overuse of online products and screens, including games and beyond.

Nevskaya and co-author Paulo Albuquerque of INSEAD focused their investigation on three main actions that the game developer has at its disposal to manage consumers’ use of the game: redesigning content and in-game reward schedules, sending notifications to gamers and imposing time limits on gameplay. In all, they analyzed a random sample of 402 gamers and nearly 15,000 gaming sessions.

They discovered this: When a firm changes its game’s rewards schedule and also limits how long gamers can play in a sitting, the firm can actually make more money—and people devote a smaller share of their time on gaming.

‘A win-win outcome’

“It’s a win-win outcome for both the firm and consumers,” Nevskaya said.
“Those actions led to higher revenues and a smaller share of people’s time devoted to gaming, curbing potentially excessive use of the product.”

The Journal of Marketing Research published their paper “How Should Firms Manage Excessive Product Use? A Continuous-Time Demand Model to Test Reward Schedules, Notifications, and Time Limits” in March. 

The researchers found gamers’ slower consumption of content led to an increase in their long-term engagement with the product, which is based on subscriptions. At the time of the research, subscription fees were about 50 cents a day on a weekly or monthly automated payment plan. 

“What’s good for the consumer is not necessarily bad for the company,” Nevskaya said in an interview.

Notifications might reinforce habit

Nevskaya and Albuquerque built an empirical model that mimics how consumers make choices so they could learn about gamers’ decisions—such as when to start and stop playing. Their approach allowed them to study consumers’ response to product design, notifications and rewards over time, as well as to identify people who display signs of habitual gaming. According to the study, more than two-thirds of gamers exhibit signs of habitual gaming with, on average, 100.8 minutes in every 24-hour period.

The data were collected by a software program that logged on to the game server every 5 to 10 minutes. It recorded gamers’ avatars present on the server at the moment, as well as their current experience level and the content area in which they were playing.

Yes, they found that altering in-game reward schedules and imposing time limits leads to shorter gaming sessions and longer subscriptions. But they also learned that notifications saying players should take a break don’t help. 

Here’s the rub: Because a suggestion to take a break may arrive at a time when a gamer is not yet satiated with a gaming session and is in a “hot habit state,” as Nevskaya calls it, it also may motivate the gamer to return quickly to the game—and reinforce the gaming habit. Notifications lead to a pattern of shorter but more frequent sessions resulting in a significant increase in active gaming time, for a large group of gamers, the authors discovered.

Gaming disorder

“Our paper addresses the important question of how to curb excessive screen usage, which has been a frequent concern among public policymakers,” Nevskaya said.

Since 2014, the researchers note, the World Health Organization has been evaluating the public health implications of excessive use of the internet, computers, smartphones and other devices. Last year, the WHO included “gaming disorder” in the 11th edition of the International Classification of Diseases as a clinically recognizable and significant syndrome when “the pattern of gaming behavior is of such a nature and intensity that it results in marked distress or significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational or occupational functioning.”

With about $19.9 billion in sales in 2016 worldwide, the online video gaming industry especially benefits from new technologies that allow almost-constant online connectivity. Online and mobile games and social media platforms have spent significant resources to increase product use through customized content, frequent promotions and virtual rewards, the authors note. 

“‘Gamification’ of products is a common practice, which makes understanding of how consumers react to game-like product features increasingly important,” they write.

“We’re not claiming that gaming is harmful. It can be a wonderful pastime,” Nevskaya said. “But it’s potentially harmful when enjoyed in excess.”

As a marketing expert, she said she feels a responsibility to consumers.

“We can agree that marketing has become very sophisticated” in large part because of the massive troves of data now available to companies, she said. “Academics as well as responsible businesses should help consumers navigate the field safely.”

Yulia Nevskaya discusses a related topic: video-gaming data.