LeBow Economist’s Research on Airfare Pricing Takes Off Nationally

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Recent research by Associate Professor of Economics Sebastien Bradley, PhD received a big boost to a wider audience last month.

Legal scholar, Harvard Law School professor and advisor to the Obama administration Cass Sunstein cited Bradley’s paper — “Hidden Baggage: Behavioral Responses to Changes in Airline Ticket Tax Disclosure,” co-authored with Naomi Feldman of Hebrew University of Jerusalem — as “a strong candidate for the coolest paper of 2020” in a tweet to over 100,000 Twitter followers.

Sunstein then singled out Bradley’s paper in a January 24 Bloomberg Opinion column as an examination of positive effects for consumers stemming from the “full fare advertising rule,” a regulation issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation in 2012.

Bradley says he and his co-author worked to generate some media attention for the paper in 2018, when Congress was considering reversing this regulation as part of a reauthorization bill for the Federal Aviation Administration; posts by Travelers United and the Drexel News Blog at the time noted the potential for higher consumer costs as a result of this change.

The notice from Sunstein more than a year later came from out of the blue.

“We learned of his original tweet from a friend and co-author of Naomi’s,” Bradley says. “Sunstein contacted us the next day to offer his compliments and ask us for additional details on our best estimates of the welfare effects of the regulation.”

The column prompted a round of congratulatory emails from colleagues, and both the column and Sunstein’s tweet produced a large spike in the number of abstract views and article downloads from economists and non-economists alike.

Following this swell of interest, Bradley’s paper will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Economic Journal: Economic Policy. Bradley says he and Feldman are considering further uses for the data and ticket tax calculator that they assembled for the project.

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Tax Salience and Consumer Behavior

Challenging the assumption that consumers make purchasing decisions in a well-informed and rational manner, Sebastien Bradley looked to evidence from experiments at the intersection of psychology and economics.

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