First Look

April 3, 2018

Among the highlights included in new research papers, case studies, articles, and books released this week by Harvard Business School faculty:

Why don’t more people spend on time-saving?

Research tells us that spending money on time-saving purchases like a housekeeper or grocery delivery increases happiness. But people often don’t make this money-for-time trade-off. The reason, suggests a new paper by Ashley V. Whillans, Elizabeth W. Dunn, and Michael I. Norton, is that we think the future will be less busy than the present. Overcoming Barriers to Time-Saving: Reminders of Future Busyness Encourage Consumers to Buy Time.

Fixing compensation at nonprofits

A new case study starts off with a question: “How should nonprofits design compensation systems to attract and retain talent?” Authors John Beshears, Joshua Schwartzstein, Tiffany Y. Chang, and Brian J. Hall follow GiveDirectly as it considers an innovative compensation scheme. GiveDirectly.

Surfacing the 'submerged state'

How do citizens get a view into the “submerged state,” where government works on business out of the public view? Updating recent research, Ryan Buell, Ethan Porter, and Michael I. Norton show that local governments who make their work more visible build trust and encourage engagement. Surfacing the Submerged State: Operational Transparency Increases Trust in and Engagement with Government.

Other new publications from Harvard Business School faculty are listed below.

— Sean Silverthorne
  • 2018
  • London: Bloomsbury Academic

Global History, Globally: Research and Practice Around the World

By: Beckert, Sven, and Dominic Sachsenmaier, eds.

Abstract— In recent years historians in many different parts of the world have sought to transnationalize and globalize their perspectives on the past. Despite all these efforts to gain new global historical visions, however, the debates surrounding this movement have remained rather provincial in scope. Global History, Globally addresses this lacuna by surveying the state of global history in different world regions. Divided into three distinct but tightly interweaved sections, the book's chapters provide regional surveys of the practice of global history on all continents, review some of the research in four core fields of global history, and consider a number of problems that global historians have contended with in their work. The authors hail from various world regions and are themselves leading global historians. Collectively, they provide an unprecedented survey of what today is the most dynamic field in the discipline of history. As one of the first books to systematically discuss the international dimensions of global historical scholarship and address a wealth of questions emanating from them, Global History, Globally is a must-read book for all students and scholars of global history.

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  • in press
  • Social Influence

Overcoming Barriers to Time-Saving: Reminders of Future Busyness Encourage Consumers to Buy Time

By: Whillans, A.V., Elizabeth W. Dunn, and Michael I. Norton

Abstract—Spending money on time-saving purchases improves happiness. Yet, people often fail to spend their money in this way. Because most people believe that the future will be less busy than the present, they may underweight the value of these purchases. We examine the impact of debiasing this previously unexplored barrier of consumer decisions to "buy time" in a field experiment with a U.S.-based sharing economy company (N=78,726). Prompting people to think that they will be as busy in the future as they are today increased the likelihood that customers would both open the email and click a link to purchase various services. In sum, making the future feel as busy as the present encourages individuals to buy future time.

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On the Direct and Indirect Real Effects of Credit Supply Shocks

By: Alfaro, Laura, Manuel García-Santana, and Enrique Moral-Benito

Abstract—We consider the real effects of bank lending shocks and how they permeate the economy through buyer-supplier linkages. We combine administrative data on all firms in Spain with a matched bank-firm-loan dataset on the universe of corporate loans for 2003–2013 to identify bank-specific shocks for each year using methods from the matched employer-employee literature. Combining firm-specific measures of upstream and downstream exposure, we construct firm-specific exogenous credit supply shocks and estimate their direct and indirect effects on real activity. Credit supply shocks have sizable direct and downstream propagation effects on investment and output throughout the period but no significant impact on employment during the expansion period. Downstream propagation effects are comparable or even larger in magnitude than direct effects. The results corroborate the importance of network effects in quantifying the real effects of credit shocks and show that real effects vary during booms and contractions.

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Abstract—Three studies, using both experimental and field data, show that revealing the “submerged state”—ensuring that citizens can see the often-hidden work that government performs—enhances both perceptions of and engagement with government. In Study 1, viewing a video highlighting the work performed by the government of an archetypal American town increased trust in government and support for government services. In Study 2, residents of Boston, Massachusetts, who interacted with a website that visualized both service requests (e.g., potholes) and efforts by the city government to address them became more supportive of government. Study 3 leverages proprietary data from a mobile phone application through which residents can submit service requests to the city of Boston. Users who received photographic evidence that their service requests had been addressed were more likely to continue to engage with the city government than users who did not receive such evidence. Together, these results suggest that one underutilized means to improve citizens’ attitudes toward their government is simply to surface the work that government does.

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Abstract—We study the impact of the minimum wage on firm exit in the restaurant industry, exploiting recent changes in the minimum wage at the city level. We find that the impact of the minimum wage depends on whether a restaurant was already close to the margin of exit. Restaurants with lower ratings are closer to the margin of exit at all observed minimum wage levels and are disproportionately driven out of business by increases to the minimum wage. Our point estimates suggest that a one dollar increase in the minimum wage leads to a 14% increase in the likelihood of exit for a 3.5-star restaurant (which is the median rating on Yelp) but has no discernible impact for a 5-star restaurant (on a 1 to 5 star scale). Our analysis also highlights how digital data can be used to better understand labor policy and the economy.

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  • Harvard Business School Case 918-036


How should nonprofits design compensation systems to attract and retain talent? GiveDirectly is a respected charitable organization with an unconventional approach. Instead of spending on traditional aid programs in areas such as health care and food access in developing countries, GiveDirectly transfers cash directly to the poor. As experiments have shown this approach to be an effective and efficient way to improve recipients’ life satisfaction, the organization has attracted considerable attention among donors and the media. Now, GiveDirectly is looking to grow, and it is contemplating how best to recruit talented employees and keep them motivated. In addition to offering salaries competitive with the private sector, GiveDirectly is considering linking employee compensation to organizational goals regarding the amount of cash transferred—an unusual strategy for a nonprofit.

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  • Harvard Business School Case 718-058


No abstract available.

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  • Harvard Business School Case 718-057

Globalization and Emerging Markets

No abstract available.

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  • Harvard Business School Case 718-023

Globalization Past, 1850–1914 (A)

On the evening of 3 August 1914, British Foreign Secretary Lord Edward Grey contemplated whether to advise King and Parliament to declare war on Germany in the wake of the country’s invasion of Belgium or to stay out of what quickly was becoming a world war triggered by a royal assassination in Sarajevo. Over the past century, the world had become woven together in ways never before seen, and a truly global economy had emerged that many believed would forever banish the possibility of war altogether. But could trade really assure perpetual peace, and what ultimately mattered most: interest or principles? The case considers the lessons to be had from the rise and fall of the last great period of globalization.

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  • Harvard Business School Case 718-030

Globalization Past, 1850–1914 (B)

Supplements the (A) case.

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  • Harvard Business School Case 317-082

Corey Thomas and the IPO

Corey Thomas, the African American CEO of the company Rapid7, must decide if it is the right time to take the 15-year-old company public, as it stood poised to capitalize on what appeared to be the next frontier for digital technology markets—cybersecurity. In spite of positive industry trends, there were some nagging concerns that this might be a risky time in the public capital markets. The company had just completed an acquisition, and he had additional concerns that the public markets may not tolerate the inevitable early losses involved with the new acquisition. Moreover, the company’s principal financiers were venture capital investors, and an IPO or sale would represent an investment exit for them, and their goal is return maximization.

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