Americans are growing older—and their caretakers need to decide the best and most cost effective way to care for them.
Since 2011, nearly 77 million baby boomers have become eligible for Medicare. For the elderly and those suffering from chronic diseases, home healthcare (HHC) is a convenient and cost-effective solution that avoids the necessity of receiving care through hospitals and nursing homes.
HHC meets an important demand in the healthcare system. Experts have found that close to 90 percent of Americans wish to spend their final time at home. But how does the care HHC providers deliver compare to that of larger health institutions?
Last year, In collaboration with investigators at the University of California at Irvine, Dr. Jacqueline Zinn, professor in the Fox School’s Department of Risk, Insurance and Healthcare Management, has received a five-year grant from the National Institute of Health to investigate the cost effectiveness and quality of care provided by home healthcare agencies.
Over the last decade, the home healthcare field has seen dramatic increases in patients, care providers, and spending. The New York Times reported that individual states spend close to $200 billion of their own funds on Medicaid, making it the second biggest item within their budgets.
As projections continue to rise and healthcare technology advances, patients should be aware of their care options.
“What we don’t know is whether or not the technologies that lead to additional growth impact the quality of care delivered,” said Zinn. “In other words, do larger facilities have better quality associated with growth? What is the optimal [home healthcare] agency size with respect to cost and quality? These are the questions we hope to answer.”
Home healthcare not only includes rehabilitative care after surgery, but hospice care and palliative care, which is dedicated to relieving people’s physical and emotional symptoms after facing life-threatening illnesses.
“Healthcare is on track to become 20 percent of the GDP,” said Zinn. “That means one in every five dollars generated by the U.S. economy will be in the healthcare sector.”
Alongside her fellow researchers at the UC Irvine, Zinn aims to discover valuable insights for patients, government, and health institutions, and home healthcare agencies alike by learning more about this under-researched field.
Are you interested in the intersection of healthcare and business education? Read our article, “Why More Surgeons and Health Professionals Are Pursuing MBAs” and learn more about Fox School Research.
Consumers today are heavily dependent on online reviews to make informed choices about what to buy. In fact, studies show that as many as 90 percent of consumers read online reviews before making financial decisions, and nearly 70 percent trust these opinions.
Given their importance, how do you tell if the reviews are from genuine customers?
Subodha Kumar, director of the Center for Data Analytics and professor of Marketing and Supply Chain Management at the Fox School, developed an approach to detect fake reviewers on online digital platforms. In his paper published in the Journal of Management Information Systems, Kumar proposes an algorithm that analyzes the behavior of reviewers on a set of key features to help differentiate between the real and the fake.
“A user who reads a negative review of a restaurant is likely to trust the message, even though it was written by a stranger,” Kumar says. “One convincing review can often persuade consumers to shift their brand loyalty or drive several extra miles to try a new sandwich shop.”
This gives firms a strong incentive to influence their online review ratings. “Business owners inject their public ratings with a positive bias,” says Kumar. “They use fake accounts or paid reviewers to either promote their offering or strategically denounce competitors’ products.”
In studying a dataset from Yelp, a popular restaurant review platform, Kumar observed a striking difference in the way spammers interact on online platforms. “Even though individual reviews by a spammer may look genuine, collectively we can capture anomalies in the review patterns,” Kumar says, “In fact, they are remarkably skewed.”
By analyzing this pattern of behaviors, Kumar’s approach to detecting review manipulation can not only improve the experience of consumers across industries but also increase the credibility of reviewing platforms like Yelp.
Kumar considers six distinct features of every review in the data set:
- Review gap: Spammers are usually not longtime members of a site, unlike genuine reviewers who use their accounts from time to time to post reviews. Thus, if reviews are posted over a relatively long timeframe, it suggests normal activity. But when all reviews are posted within a short burst, it indicates suspicious behavior.
- Review count: Paid users generally generate more reviews than unpaid users. In other cases to avoid being detected or blacklisted, a spammer could post very few reviews from one account and create a new account.
- Rating entropy: Spammers mostly post extreme reviews since their goal is either to artificially improve a particular company’s rating or to bring a bad reputation to its competitors. This results in high entropy—or drastic randomness—in fake users’ ratings.
- Rating deviation: Spammers are likely to deviate from the general rating consensus. If genuine users fairly outnumber spammers, it is easy to detect instances where a user’s rating deviates greatly from the average ratings from other users.
- Timing of review: One strategy spammers may use is to post extremely early after a restaurant’s opening in order to maximize the impact of their review. Early reviews can greatly impact a consumers’ sentiment on a product and, in turn, impact sales.
- User tenure: Fake reviewers tend to have short-lived accounts characterized by a relatively large number of reviews and handles, usernames or aliases designed to avoid detection.
After considering these variables individually, the algorithm then looks into the way the variables interact with each other. It employs techniques like supervised machine learning and accounts for the overall review behavior of a user to provide a robust and accurate analysis.
Kumar’s methodology can also be deployed to post the information of the spammers in real-time. Digital platforms like Yelp could develop a spam score using these key features for each reviewer and share it with business owners and consumers, who can subsequently be tagged or filtered.
“The issue of opinion spamming in online reviews is not going away and detecting the perpetrators is not easy,” says Kumar. But developments in approaches like these, he says, “offer great insights to businesses, allowing them to create more effective marketing strategies based on the sheer volume of genuine, user-contributed consumer reviews.”
A roundup of media mentions featuring faculty, staff, and students from the Fox School of Business and the School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management.
Fox Smarts, Philly Heart
At the Fox School of Business, social responsibility is a guiding principle that the school has honored since it was founded a century ago, rooted in Russell H. Conwell’s notion that “your diamonds are not in far distant mountains or in yonder seas; they are in your own backyard, if you but dig for them.” Read more>>
Emotional Labor May Affect You at Work
Do you suppress your feelings at work and kowtow to the wishes of clients, patients or difficult supervisors? Deanna Geddes of Human Resources Management tells U.S. News how emotional labor can affect employees every day. Read more>>
Millenials Invest Money Through Apps
Bora Ozkan of Finance went on NBC 10 to share why millennials are considered the perfect demographic for mobile investment app. Automated systems, artificial intelligence, and affordability are all keys to attracting the millennial generation. Watch now>>
Philadelphia Business Journal | Dec. 20
Thomas Fung of Marketing and Supply Chain Management shares what the newly named CEO of Campbell Soup Co. should do to be successful. Read more>>
Business Times | Dec. 12
Why are online reviews so extreme? Paul Pavlou of MIS explains why consumers most often see the five- and one-star ratings on online platforms. Read more>>
Reporter Online | Dec. 7
Alumna Brianna Judge shares her musical talents with a debut eight-song album and performances at locations like Bourbon and Branch over the holidays. Read more>>
CBS 3 | Dec. 5
Digital sexual harassment, also known as cyber-flashing, is on the rise. The MIS Department’s Tony Vance provides insight into why this happens. Read more>>
Business Wire | Dec. 4
The Risk Management and Insurance Career Reception for graduating seniors was featured on an episode of AM Best TV. Read more>>
Introducing Matthew Coughlin
The Fox School and the School of Sport, Tourism, and Hospitality Management are pleased to welcome Matt Coughlin to the communications and marketing teams. As associate director of communications, Matt will be responsible for media relations for faculty, staff, students and alumni of both schools. You can reach Matt via email at email@example.com.
How does a firm looking to expand internationally build an effective global supply chain network from scratch?
Masaaki ‘Mike’ Kotabe, Washburn Chair Professor of International Business and Marketing at the Fox School, addresses this question by studying the strategies employed by Uniqlo, a Japanese apparel firm which successfully built a world-class global supply chain network in a relatively short period of time.
In his article, ”A Dynamic Process of Building Global Supply Chain Competence by New Ventures: The Case of Uniqlo,” which was published in the Journal of International Marketing, Kotabe proposes a dynamic model on how new firms can create a flexible supply chain network internationally. “By effectively developing partnering flexibility and exerting competitive pressure on partner suppliers,” Kotabe says, “new and small firms can overcome initial business challenges associated with the lack of local reputation, limited capacity for large orders and the presence of locally established competitors.”
Historically, major Japanese manufacturers invested significantly in manufacturing activities with advanced technologies and building close-knit suppliers. But with the rapidly changing global markets in the 1990s and 2000s, these relationships turned out to be a major financial burden with huge fixed costs.
Newly internationalizing Japanese firms began to develop more “asset-light” flexible relationships with local suppliers. But Kotabe says, “They still faced serious gaps due to the lack of initial large-scale production capability and bargaining power with local suppliers.”
However, Kotabe notes a transformational change in the strategy employed by new Japanese companies like Uniqlo. “They focus primarily on building relationships with their suppliers by providing them economic and technological rewards frequently,” Kotabe says. “They also maintain flexibility in their partnership by avoiding suppliers’ over dependence on the relationship.”
By examining Uniqlo’s successful supply chain development, Kotabe proposes a three-stage model that can serve as a guideline for small companies looking to build competitive advantages while expanding internationally.
In the first stage, building close relations with suppliers is crucial. “Suppliers are more cooperative when the partnering firm rewards them with large volume orders,” says Kotabe. By limiting not only the number of suppliers but also the variety of products to be manufactured, companies can ensure that every chosen supplier has a satisfactory share of the business, along with a large volume order per variant.
The second stage focuses on developing collaborative relationships with the suppliers by helping them build their competencies. Uniqlo hired a team of retired experts skilled in Japan’s textile industry to provide technical support to their suppliers’ factories. Kotabe says, “This move was key to Uniqlo’s success story as it helped in building trust and avoiding conflicts with its suppliers.”
“By receiving both economic and technological rewards continuously in the first and second stages of the process,” Kotabe notes, “the partners’ attitude toward the principal firm stays positive and cooperative.”
In the last stage, companies need to create flexibility in their supply chain by encouraging their suppliers to have other secondary customers. This allows them to grow their own business volumes independently and prevents excessive dependency on the partner. “Uniqlo enforced a compulsory non-exclusivity arrangement,” Kotabe says.”Therefore, even when Uniqlo canceled a transaction with a partner supplier, the supplier could easily find new clients.”
With more companies becoming involved in international markets to achieve better product quality and lower costs, it is important to effectively devise strategies to stay competitive. Kotabe’s study serves as detailed guidance for firms with limited international business experience to build a flexible global supply chain network from scratch.
For further reading on a similar topic, check out “What Is the Role of International Business Researchers?”
Learn more about Fox School Research.
A roundup of media mentions featuring faculty, staff, and students from the Fox School of Business and the School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management.
Eagles’ Odds of Defending the SuperBowl
George Diemer, assistant professor of instruction in the School of Sport, Tourism and Recreation Management, was interviewed by CBS 3 Philadelphia in regards to the Philadelphia Eagles’ chances of making the NFL Playoffs. Watch now>>
Ed Rendell Receives Musser Award
Last month, former Philadelphia mayor and Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell was honored with the Fox School’s prestigious Musser Award for his service to the city and the state. Read more>>
What is Anti-Marketing?
A new wireless provider “opened” two secret stores—and the mystery is stopping passersby in their tracks. Jay Sinha provides insight into the nontraditional marketing campaign that gets people talking. Read more>>
Lessons Learned from Amazon HQ2
Charles Dhanaraj speaks with Philadelphia Business Journal about the lessons the city can learn from its failed Amazon HQ2 bid. “We can’t be a reactive city,” he says. What can Philly do to encourage more corporate investment? Read more>>
Attracting International Students
Keya Sadeghipour, dean of the College of Engineering at Temple University, mentions the Fox Innovative Idea Competition as one of the many ways universities can take a global approach to recruiting new students. Read more>>
Temple News | Nov. 27
Fox student Alfonso Corona brought his company, Plug, into Research Professor Susan Mudambi’s classroom to learn how to create a successful marketing and communications strategy. Read more.
The Economist | Nov. 1
What is the future of education? James W. Hutchin, senior research fellow at the Fox School and advisor to Flinders University of Australia, shares his thoughts in a new report from The Economist and the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. Read more.
Economic Times India | Nov. 18
Subscription and streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Apple Music are all over the world, including India. Jay Sinha, associate professor of Marketing and Supply Chain Management, describes the appeal. Read more.
The Legal Intelligencer | Oct. 8
Do broken windows and doors impact a neighborhood’s safety or just the building’s aesthetic? James M. Lammendola, assistant professor of practice, and Harper J. Dimmerman, adjunct professor, both of Legal Studies, shed light on a recent decision by the PA Supreme Court. Read more.
U.S. News & World Report | Sept. 12
How can prospective students find ways to differentiate their college applications from the competition? David Kaiser shares his tips with U.S. News & World Report on how to make an application stand out. Read more.
A board of directors plays a crucial role in determining the success of any organization and is largely responsible for major strategic decisions. However, females in these top management roles are often underrepresented. Without women on boards, companies are losing out—not only on talented leaders, but also on different perspectives of business. This raises the question: in what ways do companies with women on the board perform differently than companies with all-male boards?
Prior research suggests there are gender differences in risk-taking decisions, with many researchers supporting that women are more sensitive to risk than men. However, Ofra Bazel-Shoham, research assistant professor in the Department of Finance at the Fox School, reconsiders the implications of this conclusion.
Bazel-Shoham argues that female leaders change the way business is being done in her paper, “The Effect of Board Gender Diversity on R&D.” She looked at boards’ decisions regarding high-risk, high-reward investment decisions, as well as their professional behavior, to understand the differences in outcomes that gender-diverse boards produce. The research recently won the Best Paper Award at the 2018 Engaged Management Scholarship Conference, hosted by Temple University this September. The award was sponsored by Business Horizons, an academic journal from Indiana University.
As a proxy for analyzing risk-taking decisions, Bazel-Shoham used choices around research and development (R&D), often a potentially risky yet highly rewarding investment. “It requires upfront resources and has a very low probability of success,” she says.
Bazel-Shoham, who is also the academic director of Fox School’s new part-time MBA Program in Conshohocken, collected data from CEOs and board members in 44 countries and over a period of 16 years. The gender disparity was already obvious, as she notes in her sample only 2% of all CEOs and 9% of all board members were female.
The study found that while the direct correlation between the number of women on boards and the number of investments in R&D was negative, women were more likely to focus on monitoring performance, which ends up incentivizing risky but data-driven decisions. Bazel-Shoham says, “As female leaders put more emphasis on monitoring, gender-diverse boards were able to quantify and measure their decisions better than all-male boards.”
Bazel-Shoham elucidates this argument by analyzing the behavior of female directors who are most often outnumbered by their male counterparts. Her interviews with female leaders suggest that being in a minority puts more pressure on women to not make mistakes and make data-driven decisions.
She elaborates, “We realized that female directors felt they were ‘under a magnifying glass’ most of the time and were judged more stringently than their male colleagues.” This made them make more conservative decisions, which usually translated into making lesser high-risk R&D investments. However, teams that quantified their results better supported performance-based compensation where incentives are measurable and dependent on the actual outcome rather than on vaguely defined promises.
Organizations often use performance-based incentives to motivate managers to make riskier but potentially profitable long-term investing decisions. Bazel-Shoham says, “We observed that such remuneration systems encourage CEOs and senior management to engage in more R&D activities.” With women involved, boards more often supported this form of compensation, in affect encouraging managers to make more of these investments. Bazel-Shoham found that these actions successfully mitigated women’s effect of being more risk-averse.
Besides indirectly increasing R&D spending, Bazel-Shoham notes having even one woman on the board of directors significantly influences how the board behaves, the decisions it makes and their resulting outcomes. To illustrate this, she quotes an experience of a male CEO of a large educational organization. “The women directors read all the materials ahead of time, have specific questions and are more professional than the others,” he says. “They have changed the organizational culture of the board. The men, in turn, have started to prepare themselves better as well.”
Underrepresentation of women on boards of directors continues to be a pressing issue to shareholders and society at large. However, organizations are slowly understanding the strategic importance of leveraging a more diverse top management team. With rapidly changing market dynamics, leveraging the power of gender diversity is beneficial for the long-term success of businesses.
Do you feel like you’re always thinking in 140 characters?
Microblogging platforms have skyrocketed in popularity in the last decade. As of August 2018, Twitter had over 335 million active monthly users, while Weibo, the Chinese social media giant, had over 431 million users. What makes these platforms so enticing to billions of people?
Xue Bai, associate professor with dual appointments in the Departments of Marketing and Supply Chain Management and Management Information Systems, investigated why these short-form social media platforms can be so addictive, together with researchers from Renmin University and Tsinghua University, in her recently published paper.
Bai and her colleagues analyzed the habits, uses and desires of 520 microblogging users. They found that users often used the platform for three distinction purposes: communication, information gathering and entertainment. Then, the researchers took the study deeper by distinguishing the levels of gratification, or the reasons why users feel satisfied when using the platform. Bai classified gratification into three categories: when people are satisfied due to the content they consume or share, the process of using the platform and the social needs they look to fulfill.
“Before, the commonly accepted understanding was that use leads to addiction,” says Bai. “But it turns out in our study, it is how you use it and how you feel from the use of it that leads to addiction.” For example, Person A might use Twitter more than Person B, but if Person B feels more satisfied when using it due to her particular purpose, she may be more likely to become addicted, regardless of time spent on the platform.
The theory behind the study, called “uses and gratifications,” is a common approach to analyzing mass media. However, by distinguishing between the “uses” and “gratifications,” Bai and her colleagues extended the theory to study the causal relations between use, gratification and addiction, opening up new possibilities for media research.
The researchers hypothesized that users with higher gratification levels have a great possibility of becoming addicted. “This constant feeling [of satisfaction] leads to psychological reinforcement and then eventually to dependence,” says Bai. The researchers then linked gratification to four dimensions of addiction—diminished impulse control, loneliness or depression, social comfort and distraction—to determine the path from use to gratification to addiction tendency.
The study found that the different types of purposes led to varying levels of gratification. “For example, if a user is using the microblogging platform mostly for information, information leads to content gratification and social gratification,” says Bai. Using microblogging for entertainment purposes led to satisfaction with social interactions and their experience of the process. The purpose for social communication, surprisingly, yields the least satisfaction among the three types of use.
“Social gratification, however, was the most impactful to addiction,” says Bai. Users who were satisfied from the social aspects of the platforms were more susceptible to loneliness, diminished impulse control and distraction, and were the most likely to be addicted. “Users who felt satisfied with content were the least likely to become addicted,” said Bai.
With the pervasiveness of microblogging tools, these insights are practically important to both consumers and platform designers. Bai hopes her research will help address the issue of social media addiction by understanding more about how these tendencies are formed. “We hope this will guide platform designers to better construct microblogging platforms to enhance the positive effects and avoid the negative impacts,” says Bai. “The research can inform the design of a platform to satisfy users’ needs at an optimal level, not to the point of being addicted.” For example, companies could use this research to emphasize content gratification, which has the least impact on addiction tendency.
Certainly, microblogging will not be going away, says Bai. “It is changing the way people, especially teenagers, communicate with each other and socially interact with the rest of the world.”
Remember the last time you donated warm clothes to a homeless shelter and felt good about yourself? Or that time your friends helped you get through a difficult life problem after which you couldn’t help but feel extreme gratitude towards them?
A lot of traditional research has been done on why people help and how they feel after helping. You Jin Kim, assistant professor of Human Resource Management at the Fox School, goes beyond just that by exploring the role of the recipient of the help. Her research emphasizes how demonstrating gratitude, as well as the helper’s feelings of pride, interact to encourage repeated helping.
In her paper, “A Dyadic Model of Motives, Pride, Gratitude, and Helping,” which was accepted for publication by the Journal of Organizational Behaviour, Kim demonstrates that the motives of the helper interact to predict pride via initial helping whereas recipient attributions of helper motives predict recipient gratitude in response to being helped. This interaction of emotions (i.e., pride and gratitude) influences any subsequent helping by the helper, making them both active members of the social exchange.
Kim points out that the helper’s motives drive their initial actions. She highlights two positive motives: “autonomous motives,” where individuals help because they value doing so, and “other-oriented motives,” where individuals help because of their concern for others. These motives often lead to voluntary helping that is intended to benefit others.
These motives affect the perception of the recipient and the level of appreciation they feel. “Recipients seek information about helpers and helping contexts because they seek to understand why others help them,” Kim reasons. For example, an employee might choose to cover a shift for a sick worker because he or she truly cares about the coworker’s welfare, leading to the recipient attribute this action to the helper’s selfless (what Kim classifies as autonomous or other-oriented) motives. In such interactions, the recipient feels more gratitude toward the helper.
Kim also considers that the motives may not always be altruistic. She elaborates, “They could be doing it because of impression management, career enhancement motives, and not truly directed towards benefitting others.” For example, a helper could choose to teach a peer a new skill with the goal of transferring an undesirable task to this peer. Such interactions fail to evoke the feeling of pride or gratitude in either party.
Kim highlights cases where, although the helping motive was genuine and the helpers experienced authentic pride, they did not engage in repeated helping unless recipients expressed their gratitude. “Unlike economic exchanges, social exchange returns are not specified in advance, and so reciprocity is not guaranteed,” says Kim. “A simple ‘thank you’ makes a lot of difference.” Thus expressing gratitude is very crucial in encouraging the helper to continue helping others in the future, making the recipient an important influencer of the interaction.
The results of these studies have practical implication for managers. “Managers need to understand why helping is being provided and create a work environment where employees do not feel pressured to help and that helping is voluntary,” says Kim. “It should not be related to any type of organizational decision, such as a promotion or vacation days.”
Importantly, gratitude also has positive implications for recipients. Kim says, “Managers also need to emphasize the benefits of showing gratitude and encourage recipients to communicate their gratitude when receiving help has been positive.” Such reciprocative interactions create a positive environment at a workplace, subsequently improving the efficiency and lowering the turnover intentions of all employees.
Learn more about Fox School Research.
Steve Casper spent the spring of 2018 teaching his students about stocks, bonds, time value of money, cash flow and cost of capital. This does not sound unusual for a finance professor, except that particular semester he was on sabbatical in Cambodia.
Most of his students, who came from rural farms on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital, had a limited academic background in finance. Many did not have a personal relationship with traditional financial institutions that Americans accept as commonplace, like banks and stock markets. Casper, associate professor of finance and managing director of the DBA program at the Fox School of Business, says, “It was the most challenging class I’ve ever taught, but it was so much fun.”
Since the summer of 2016, Casper had been volunteering his time teaching rural students in Cambodia. After first getting involved via Habitat for Humanity, Casper has built a relationship with these students, teaching finance and leadership during two-week seminars. Last spring, the director of the Paññāsāstra University of Cambodia, the leading English-speaking university in the country, asked Casper to teach a full semester.
“Most of these students have never had a calculator before,” says Casper, FOX PhD ’10. “I was told I had 30 students. I get over there and I brought 30 TI-BA II+ financial calculators. My wife was coming two weeks later and I said, ‘Liz, I have 54 students. I need you to bring another 24 calculators, I just ordered them on Amazon.’ Eventually, it got up to 94 students.”
This past October, four of these students came to Philadelphia for a week of leadership and business practice. The trip was organized by the Cambodian Rural Student Trust, an NGO founded in 2011 that aims to help bright Khmer, or Cambodian, students from poor, rural families go to high school and university in Cambodia.
Casper brought the students to meet with representatives from all over the financial world, from companies like SAP, B-Lab and Saul Ewing. He invited the students to speak to his finance classes at the Fox School. The Khmer students shared the story of their lives, which often included uneducated family members, the loss of one or both parents and financial hardships. But each had a strong, unrelenting belief in the power of education to transform lives.
One student named Sompeas, who is majoring in law and hopes one day to become a lawyer, shares her philosophy. “I believe men and women are equal. I believe education will provide women with the knowledge to believe this and give them the skills to follow their dreams, have amazing careers and be greater contributors to society.” She continues, “The special thing about this trip is that I can share my voice and bring back many ideas that will inspire other girls to be adventurous and ambitious, while also expanding how I see things in my small world.”
Casper is grateful to the Fox School for allowing him to expand his world as well through his sabbatical. Casper loves the opportunity to teach both his American and Khmer students. “I always wanted to do this,” he says. “To have great classes, you have to be thinking about it all the time—how can I make it better, how can I get this point across?”
His passion for education translates into his enthusiasm about the mission of the Cambodia Rural Students Trust. The completely student-run organization, Casper says, “can give a student a place to live, feed them, and pay for their college or high school,” all for $2,000 a year.
“In Cambodia, education is a privilege,” says Casper. “I am honored to be part of something that empowers students to lead themselves and lead society.”
Learn more about Fox School Research.
A roundup of media mentions featuring faculty, staff, and students from the Fox School of Business and the School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management.
What’s Next For the Fox School of Business?
Dean Ron Anderson speaks with Business Because about the school’s centennial and his appointment as dean marking a new chapter in Fox history. “We’re going to use this as an opportunity to refocus the school,” he says. Read more>>
One Fox Student’s Dreams for Inclusivity
Shawn Aleong, a legal studies freshman, will study in San Francisco on a trip organized by the Fox School to learn digital and alternative financial services to further his advocacy efforts for inclusive business. Read more>>
The Odds of a Winning Ticket
Laurie Burns used her statistical reasoning and games of chance class to calculate the odds of winning October’s billion-dollar jackpot with Fox29. Watch now>>
Inquirer | October 19
David Schuff, chair of the Management Information Systems department, provides insight into how the rollout of SEPTA’s Key program led to an untold number of free rides since August. Read more>>
College Magazine | October 25
What does a financial advisor actually do? Cindy Axelrod, certified financial planner and assistant professor of practice in the Finance department, gives advice to college students interested in wealth management. Read more>>
Most public officials want to stay in office—and insurance regulators are no different. In the days, weeks, and months leading up to the elections, many assume that public officials would be proactive, striving to implement policies that improve their credibility and increase their chances of reelection. However, recent studies by Martin Grace, Harry Cochran Professor of Risk, Insurance, and Healthcare Management at the Fox School and Tyler Leverty of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, say that this is not the case for insurance regulators.
The financial health of the insurance companies is closely monitored by the state insurance departments to provide protection to the policyholders. When a company faces a financial crisis, the regulators intervene and help them regain their footing. In situations where the company is irreversibly dying, they are declared insolvent, or bankrupt.
To keep these stages in check, insurance regulators conduct regular financial examinations, especially for companies facing financial crisis. In their paper, ”Do Elections Delay Regulatory Action?” which was accepted by the Journal of Financial Economics, Grace found that these interventions on failing companies fall by up to 78% in the year leading up to an election. These delays result in an increased cost of failure for both policyholders and taxpayers.
The reason for this seems to be rooted in the political incentives for the insurance regulators. Insurance commissioners are elected by popular vote in some states or appointed by the governor in the others. To have a positive opinion around their candidateship, insurance commissioners avoid making formal regulatory orders or making declarations of insolvency for insurance companies up to a year before the elections. “As this could raise questions on their competency and could be seen as a black mark when they run for higher office,” says Grace, “it is easier for insurance regulators to delay companies’ bankruptcies. So they strategically postpone any official resolution until after election day.”
And, Grace says, “The more competitive the race is, the more bad news might matter.” While appointed commissioners tend to delay interventions only before tightly contested elections where the appointing governor is running for office, elected regulators delay interventions before all elections.
To conduct this study, the researchers collected data from approximately 3,200 firms and 300 separate elections in 50 states over 21 years (1989-2011). With varying election dates and state-regulated insurance policies, Grace says, “these heterogeneities gave us a very rich data to study a given insurer at different intervals of time, across different states, and at various stages of the electoral cycle.”
With so much data and possible causations, it took the researchers about eight years to publish the paper. During various presentations of the research, Grace recollects offering a dollar to anyone who could come up with a plausible explanation to the observation that they hadn’t heard of before. ”We covered it all,” Grace says. “But if someone came up with a new idea, I would give them a dollar.” However, given their extensive data set and time, Grace and his co-author were confident in their findings that elections were the main cause of these delays.
Grace emphasizes that these delays are important because they cost taxpayers more money. When an insurance company goes bankrupt and they run out of cash to pay off their debts, the balance is covered by the government from the pool of state taxes collected from policyholders of the healthy insurers. For example, he reasons, “Let’s say we have a $100 left in the failed insurer. If we closed the insurer immediately, the value would remain $100.” However, if the insurer is closed in 6 months, there would be more costs associated, like paying employees and managers of the failed insurer. “That means all taxpayers will have to pick up the balance.” Grace’s research found that delays increased the cost to taxpayers by up to $0.48 dollars for every dollar of failed insurers assets at the time of insolvency.
Research shows that prompt governance reduces the delays caused due to elections. “This was seen to be especially true in the case of appointed regulators,” says Grace. Current laws mandate regulators to report and take timely corrective actions at prescribed levels of declining capital of the insurers, limiting the regulators’ ability to delay.
The effect of delays in regulating insurance companies has a discreet yet profound effect on the cost of insurance to society. Timely settlement of claims, especially when the insurance company is in a financial crisis, helps decrease the cost of failure to both the policyholders and taxpayers.
Learn more about Fox School Research.
The “agency theory of the firm,” a way of looking at social interactions in business, says that managers are agents of shareholders. As such, managers must generally make decisions that maximize shareholder profits. Since the Citizens United case in 2010, those decisions have included the right to make unlimited independent political expenditures, under the right to freedom of expression.
So what are the ethical implications of companies making contributions for or against a political candidate? Daniel Isaacs, assistant professor of Legal Studies and academic director in the Fox School, weighs on this question in his article, “When Government Contractors May or May Not Spend Money on Political Speech,” which has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Business Ethics.
“There are some situations where it will be in the economic interests of businesses to forgo making independent political expenditures,” says Isaacs. By aligning profit motives with ethical conduct, Isaacs aims to remove barriers to ethical behavior.
Sometimes, however, profits and ethics do not align. In these cases, Isaacs argues that managers may not use the agency theory of the firm as a means to escape their ethical obligations.
For example, says Isaacs, imagine a private prison that is experiencing a reduced number of prisoners due to declining crime rate in the state. The prison has the right to make independent political expenditures on behalf of a candidate that favors laws that would require courts to impose longer prison sentences for all crimes. The outcome of these expenditures and the succeeding election would increase profits for the private prison by ensuring a steady stream of prisoners who will spend more time in jail.
But what happens if maximizing profits for shareholders by making these independent political expenditures leads to profit and unethical outcomes, like longer prison sentences? Does the agency theory allow managers to ignore the ethical situation and simply make money? No, says Isaacs, “because the agency theory relies on the concept that principals must do that which agents dictate.” If that is the case, though, managers cannot act beyond the authority of their principals.
“This relationship between the managers and the shareholders does not dilute the managers’ moral obligation,” Isaacs says. “The agency theory does not grant them an ethical free pass.”
Isaacs says that the shareholders lack the power to authorize managers to make profits in a way that they wouldn’t do themselves. “And managers cannot escape their ethical obligations by claiming that they were just following orders,” he says.
Companies should consider whether it is in their best interests to make independent political expenditures, as forgoing in some cases might make them more appealing. For example, if a company voluntarily waives its right to make independent political expenditures, Isaacs argues that it can use that to its competitive advantage. “One of the risks that at least one private prison identified in its disclosure statement was that the public may change its perception of private prisons,” says Isaacs. “If the public becomes hostile to the concept of private prisons, governments may stop entering into contracts with the corporations—something that a reasonable investor would want to know.”
With the boundaries of profitability, law and ethical obligations blurring in the real world of business, Isaacs’ research works to identify ways in which the market can support ethical decision making. He finds an unexpected friend in agency theory, arguing that the way people justify profit maximization, also serves to demonstrate the limits of shareholder power to engage in or authorize others to undertake such behavior.
“Shareholders and managers, as human beings, have a moral obligation, and desiring profits does not justify all actions of achieving them,” he concludes.
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Peace has finally been brokered in a long-standing argument between two schools of thought in statistical science.
Research from Deep Mukhopadhyay, professor of statistical science, and Douglas Fletcher, a PhD student, was accepted for publication in Scientific Reports, a journal by Nature Research. Their research marks a significant step towards bridging the “gap” between two different schools of thought in statistical data modeling that has plagued statisticians for over 250 years.
“There are two branches of statistics: Bayesian and Frequentist,” says Mukhopadhyay. “There is a deep-seeded division, conceptually and operationally, between them.” The fundamental difference is the way they process and analyze the data. Bayesian statistics incorporates external domain-knowledge into data analysis via so-called “prior” distribution.
“Frequentists view ‘prior’ as a weakness that can hamper scientific objectivity and can corrupt the final statistical inference,” says Mukhopadhyay. “I could come up with ten different kinds of ‘prior’ if I asked ten different experts. Bayesians, however, view it as a strength to include relevant domain-knowledge into the data analysis.” This has been a disagreement in statistics over the last 250 years.
So, which camp is right? “In fact, both are absolutely right,” says Mukhopadhyay. In their paper, they argued that a better question to ask is, how can we develop a mechanism that incorporates relevant expert-knowledge without sacrificing the scientific objectivity?
The answer, Mukhopadhyay says, can ultimately help design artificial intelligence capable of simultaneously learning from both data and expert knowledge—a holy grail problem of 21st Century statistics and AI.
“The science of data analysis must include domain experts’ prior scientific knowledge in a systematic and principled manner,” Mukhopadhyay says. Their paper presents Statistical rules to judiciously blend data with domain-knowledge, developing a dependable and defensible workflow.
“That is where our breakthrough lies,” says Mukhopadhyay. “It creates a much more refined ‘prior,’ which incorporates the scientist’s knowledge and respects the data, so it’s a compromise between your domain expertise and what the data is telling me.”
Answering that question—when and how much to believe prior knowledge—offers dozens of real-world applications for Mukhopadhyay’s work. For example, healthcare companies can use apply this to new drugs by leveraging doctors’ expertise without being accused of cherry picking data for the sake of a speedy or unusually successful clinical trial.
Mukhopadhyay thanks Brad Efron of Stanford University, for inspiring him to investigate this problem. “It took me one and a half years to come up with the right question,” says Mukhopadhyay. “I believe Bayes and Frequentist could be a winning combination that is more effective than either of the two separately in this data science era.”
*This article corrects an earlier version by specifying that the research was published in Scientific Reports, a journal by Nature Research.