Research

Publications

"The Economics of Social Media" (PDF) with Guy Aridor, Rafael Jiménez-Durán, and Ro'ee Levy, forthcoming at the Journal of Economic Literature

We provide a guide to the burgeoning literature on the economics of social media. We first define social media platforms and highlight their unique features. We then synthesize the main lessons from the empirical economics literature and organize them around the three stages of the life cycle of content: (1) production, (2) distribution, and (3) consumption. Under production, we discuss how incentives affect content produced on and off social media and how harmful content is moderated. Under distribution, we discuss the social network structure, algorithms, and targeted advertisements. Under consumption, we discuss how social media affects individuals who consume its content and society at large, and explore consumer substitution patterns across platforms. Throughout the guide, we examine case studies on the deterrence of misinformation, segregation, political advertisements, and the effects of social media on political outcomes. We conclude with a brief discussion of the future of social media. 

Our post in VoxEU.

"Digital Addiction" (PDF) with Hunt Allcott and Matthew Gentzkow, American Economic Review, 112 (7): 2424-63.

Many have argued that digital technologies such as smartphones and social media are addictive. We develop an economic model of digital addiction and estimate it using a randomized experiment. Temporary incentives to reduce social media use have persistent effects, suggesting social media are habit forming. Allowing people to set limits on their future screen time substantially reduces use, suggesting self-control problems. Additional evidence suggests people are inattentive to habit formation and partially unaware of self-control problems. Looking at these facts through the lens of our model suggests that self-control problems cause 31 percent of social media use.

Our op-ed in the Washington Post. Media coverage: NPR Morning Edition, The Indicator from Planet Money, Fast Company, The Atlantic


"Gotta Have Money to Make Money? Bargaining Behavior and Financial Need of Microentrepreneurs" (PDF) with Morgan Hardy and Gisella Kagy, American Economic Review: Insights, 4 (1): 1-17.

Bargaining over real prices with microenterprise owners in Ghana, we show that sellers with less per capita household liquidity agree to lower sale prices. This relationship is robust across firms and within firms over time, even after controlling for a plethora of time-varying observables. A computerized bargaining experiment, with randomized initial payout sizes, corroborates the real-bargaining findings. This pattern can be explained by an application of classical bargaining theory that includes endowments and utility functions with decreasing absolute risk aversion. The potential poverty multiplying implications of pricing behavior is a key frontier in understanding barriers to the profitability of microenterprises.

Our post in VoxDev. J-PAL Summary.  

Working Papers

"Closing the Distance: The Effects of Social Media Content on Support for Racial Justice" (current draft)

Mention: Slow Boring

"The Profitability of Diversity in the Media" (new draft coming soon)

"Knowledge is (Bargaining) Power – How Consumer Information Affects Pricing Mechanisms" (current draft

Ongoing Projects

"Flexibility through Delay" with Hunt Allcott, Matthew Gentzkow, Peter Maxted, and Carl Meyer 

"Reaching Across the Political Aisle: Overcoming Challenges in Using Social Media for Recruiting Politically Diverse Respondents" with Maggie Macdonald, Megan A. Brown, Nejla Asimovic, Rajeshwari Majumdar, Laura Huber, Sarah Graham, Joshua A. Tucker, and Jonathan Nagler