Jonathan Levin uses big data to explore consumer behavior in online markets


In his lecture, Prof. Levin discussed the advantages and challenges of conducting behavioral experiments with billions of pieces of data from online retailers such as eBay or Amazon. He also shared some of the more surprising findings from work carried out with his research team. 

Video: Jonathan Levin, Barcelona GSE Lecture Recap

In addition to unexpected results such as consumers who are willing to pay more for an item if a seller offers free shipping and the persistence of consumer preference for sellers in their local area, Prof. Levin addressed some of the pitfalls of working with modern big data sets supplied to researchers by private companies. 

"I think there are a number of concerns with that," Prof. Levin said. "One is the nature of agreements people enter into with companies. If you work with a private company's data, you have to agree not to report some things. For example, things that are pertinent to their upcoming earnings announcement...Secondly, it makes it hard to do things like replication...and that might change the way that research works in Economics and in other social sciences."

About Jonathan Levin

Jonathan Levin (PhD, MIT) is the Holbrook Working Professor of Price Theory at Stanford University, and Chair of the Department of Economics. He is also Professor by Courtesy in the Stanford Graduate School of Business and Senior Fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.

His research is in the field of industrial organization, particularly the economics of contracting, organizations, and market design. His current research interests include Internet platforms, auction design, and the health care system.

Levin received the American Economic Association’s John Bates Clark Medal in 2011 as the economist under the age of 40 who has made the most significant contribution to economic thought and knowledge. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a Guggenheim Fellow, and the winner of department and school-wide teaching awards. He is an elected member of the AEA’s Executive Committee, and a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader.