Michael Luca

13 Results


The Surprising Benefits of Oversharing

In a social media culture that encourages sharing of embarrassing information, revealing too much can benefit individuals but hurt businesses. New research papers from Leslie John and Michael Luca help explain why. Open for comment; 9 Comments posted.

Is No News (Perceived as) Bad News? An Experimental Investigation of Information Disclosure

Truth-in-advertising laws stipulate that companies cannot provide misleading or incorrect information to customers. Even so, businesses typically decide how much or what kind of information to disclose to buyers. When a business chooses not to disclose information, customers must then infer whether no news is good news or bad news. Through a series of experiments, this paper shows that consumers systematically underestimate the extent to which no news is bad news, and sellers take advantage of this by strategically withholding unfavorable information. Read More

Curbing Adult Student Attrition: Evidence from a Field Experiment

This paper by Michael Luca and colleagues demonstrates how insights from behavioral economics can improve attendance habits among adults in literacy and numeracy programs. In a field experiment consisting of 1,179 adult learners in England, the authors sent behaviorally-informed text messages and organizational reminders to students. The messages led to large increases in attendance rates, and the effects persisted over the three weeks of the campaign. This simple intervention provides a low cost approach for organizations looking to improve attendance and engagement. Read More

Uncovering Racial Discrimination in the ‘Sharing Economy’

New research by Benjamin G. Edelman and Michael Luca shows how online marketplaces like Airbnb inadvertently fuel racial discrimination. Closed for comment; 1 Comment posted.

Digital Discrimination: The Case of Airbnb.com

To build trust and facilitate transactions, online marketplaces present information not only about products, but also about the people offering the products. Many platforms now allow sellers to present personal profiles, post pictures of themselves, and even link to their Facebook accounts. While these features serve the laudable goals of building trust and accountability, they can also bring unintended consequences: Personal profiles may facilitate discrimination. Benjamin G. Edelman and Michael Luca investigate the extent of racial discrimination against hosts on the popular online rental marketplace Airbnb.com. They construct a data set combining pictures of all New York City landlords on Airbnb with their rental prices and information about characteristics and quality of their properties. The authors use this data to measure differences in outcomes according to host race. Nonblack hosts are able to charge approximately 12 percent more than black hosts, holding location, rental characteristics, and quality constant. Moreover, black hosts receive a larger price penalty for having a poor location relative to nonblack hosts. These differences highlight the risk of discrimination in online marketplaces, suggesting an important unintended consequence of a seemingly-routine mechanism for building trust. Read More

Do Employees Work Harder for Higher Pay?

In a recent field study, Duncan Gilchrist, Michael Luca, and Deepak Malhotra set out to answer a basic question: "Do employees work harder when they are paid more?" Closed for comment; 17 Comments posted.

When $3+$1 > $4: The Effect of Gift Salience on Employee Effort in an Online Labor Market

Do employees work harder when they are paid more? This study shows that paying above-market wages, per se, does not have an effect on effort. The authors offered an experiment in a field setting that allowed them to test for the conditions under which higher wages elicit higher effort. They hired three groups of workers for a data entry task on the online labor market oDesk.com, telling them all that this was a one-time job. Group one ("3") was hired at $3 per hour. Group two ("3+1") was also hired at $3 per hour, but before starting work, people in group two were told that there was unexpectedly extra money in the budget and they would instead be paid $4 per hour. Group three ("4") was hired directly at $4 per hour, so that the "extra" money would not signal a salient "gift" from the employer. Our findings show that higher wages in which the gift was salient (3+1) led to higher and more persistent effort. However, higher wages by themselves (4) had no effect on effort compared to the lower wage (3) condition. Moreover, higher effort in the 3+1 group was strongest for employees with the most experience on oDesk, and those who had worked most recently on oDesk-exactly the kind of workers for whom our $1 additional payment was likely to be most salient (e.g., because it is not common in this labor market). Read More

Helping Yelp Create More Accurate Reviews

Over time, Yelp's reader rating system of restaurants can make or break an operation, but professor Michael Luca shows the program has flaws. Can a more accurate, fairer system be created? Closed for comment; 2 Comments posted.

What Makes a Critic Tick? Connected Authors and the Determinants of Book Reviews

The professional critic has long been heralded as the gold standard for evaluating products and services such as books, movies, and restaurants. Analyzing hundreds of book reviews from 40 different newspapers and magazines, Professor Michael Luca and coauthors Loretti Dobrescu and Alberto Motta investigate the determinants of professional reviews and then compare these to consumer reviews from Amazon.com. Read More

Sharpening Your Skills: Online Marketing

In this collection from our archives, Harvard Business School faculty discuss the latest research on online marketing techniques, including consumer reviews, video ads, loyalty programs, and coupon offerings. Open for comment; 6 Comments posted.

The Yelp Factor: Are Consumer Reviews Good for Business?

In a new study, Assistant Professor Michael Luca shows just how much restaurant reviews on Yelp affect companies' bottom lines. The more difficult question: Are these ratings reliable as a measure of product quality? Closed for comment; 14 Comments posted.

Reviews, Reputation, and Revenue: The Case of Yelp.com

In just six years, Yelp.com has managed to crowdsource 20 million reviews of restaurants and other services by creating and leveraging an impressive social network of people who enjoy writing reviews. But can a bunch of amateur opinionators working for free really transform the restaurant industry, where heavily marketed chains and highly regarded professional critics have long had a stronghold? To answer this question, HBS professor Michael Luca combined Yelp reviews with revenues for every restaurant that operated in Seattle, WA at any point between 2003 and 2009. Applying a new method to tease out the causal effect of reviews (separate from the effect of underlying quality), the study shows that a one-star increase on Yelp leads to a 5 to 9 percent increase in revenue. Yet Yelp doesn't work for all restaurants. Chain restaurants —which already spend heavily on branding —are unaffected by changes in their Yelp ratings. This suggests that consumer reviews present a new way of learning in the Internet age, and are fast becoming a substitute for traditional forms of reputation. Read More

Salience in Quality Disclosure: Evidence from the U.S. News College Rankings

Why are the U.S. News and World Report College Rankings so influential? According to this paper by Michael Luca and Jonathan Smith, it's at least in part because U.S. News makes the information so simple. While earlier college guides had already provided useful information about schools, U.S. News did the work of aggregating the information into an easy-to-use ranking, making it more salient for prospective students. The authors show that these rankings matter in a big way: a one-rank improvement leads to a 0.9 percent increase in applicants. However, students tend to ignore the underlying details even though these details carry more information than the overall rank. Read More