Date of Award

Spring 2022

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Moore School of Business

First Advisor

Orgül Öztürk

Second Advisor

Philip Brookins


This dissertation includes three essays on behavioral economics with applications in health, strategic thinking, and labor.In the first essay titled ``The Effect of Nudging on the Utilization of Counseling Services and the Implications on College Student Involvement'', I examine the effect of nudging on the utilization of mental health services and the impact on college student involvement. To improve the utilization of mental health services for college students I designed and implemented an intervention promoting a pro-counseling social norm on campus. More specifically I sent campus-wide emails to inform students of the mental health services offered on campus. Randomly selected students received either a simple informative message or a nudging message. The nudging message included a highlighted descriptive social norm statement. Within each group, randomly selected students received the message either once or twice during the semester. Findings indicate that the effectiveness of the nudge varied by race. In the first round, nudging increased the likelihood of receiving help for Black and Asian students. This effect underlines the prevalence of stigma and/or other pragmatic barriers that are more prominent among minorities. In the second round, White students who received the nudge (compared to those who did not) experienced a significantly higher rate of treatment both at the intensive and at the extensive margin. This result is aligned with the higher email engagement of the second round of treatment. Furthermore, nudging increased the probability of Black students going to a social on-campus event, unveiling synergies between receiving help and student involvement.

In the second essay titled ``Date to Switch? Gender Risk Preference Differences on Mobility and Other Labor Outcomes'', I study the effect of risk preferences on job mobility. Job mobility in early career stages is established as one of the most important determinants of wage growth. However, the determinants of job mobility are understudied. I use the 1979 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY79) and 1997 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY97) surveys, that record labor market activity, individuals' skills and risk preferences, to investigate the role of risk preferences in forming gender differences in early career stages. I find that females are more risk averse than males in the task they are assigned to in the survey. There is also suggestive evidence that taste for risk increases job mobility for both males and females, especially in the NLY79 cohort. Mobility seems to be motivated by wage growth and better match quality. Individuals who switch experience a greater wage growth and an improved match quality in their occupations in both cohorts. Collectively, gender risk preference differences seem to be significantly correlated with gender differences in job mobility that can lead to differences in other labor market outcomes such as wage growth and employee-employer match.

In the third essay titled ``Sequential Contests: Theory and Experimental Evidence'', me and co-authors (Dr. Alexander Matros and Dr. Philip Brookins) investigate the drivers of behavior in a sequential contest in which participants make irreversible investments with the goal of outperforming other contestants to obtain a valuable prize. Aligned with many ``real life'' examples from R\&D races, format wars, political campaigns, and lobbying activities, subjects in this paper move sequentially with one player announcing their investment first and another observing their investment and announcing theirs second. We investigate this context theoretically by describing the Bayesian equilibrium of the model, and empirically by collecting data in the lab. Results suggest that experimental decisions are not perfectly aligned with the theory. We propose alternative models that better fit the data. More specifically, the first-mover seems to be invest based on a simple heuristic that is investing half of the valuation of the prize, regardless of the amount of that valuation. While we find evidence that the second-mover, behaves out of ``spite'' in an effort to minimize the difference between their profit and their opponent's profit.


© 2022, Foteini Tzachrista

Available for download on Friday, May 31, 2024

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