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January 7, 2019 to March 15, 2019

Social Science and Technology Seminar Winter 2019

Social Science and Technology Seminar Winter 2019

Seminars take place in the 3rd Floor Doll Room (320), John A. and Cynthia Fry Gunn Building at 366 Galvez Street unless otherwise noted.

Day and time: Wednesdays 3-4:30pm

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Seminar organizers:

Riitta Katila, Professor, Management Science & Engineering, Stanford Technology Ventures Program

Chuck Eesley, Associate Professor, Management Science & Engineering, Stanford Technology Ventures Program

Tim Bresnahan, Professor, Department of Economics

Woody Powell, Professor, Department of Education

February 13, 2019

3:00pm to 4:30pm
Presenter(s) : 

Toby Stuart (University of California, Berkeley - Haas)


Does Intra-household Contagion Cause an Increase in Prescription Opioid Use?


Despite the fact that opioids claim many thousands of lives each year, we do not know why prescription opioids (PO) are so widely used in the U.S. This paper examines the diffusion of opioid use within family households as one potential explanation for the proliferation of these medications. In an analysis of more than a billion medical claims and almost 14 million opioid prescriptions in Massachusetts between 2010 and 2015, we show that the use of POs spreads within family households. We also demonstrate that the treatment effect of exposure to a family member’s PO use is driven by an increase in opioid use for medical conditions that members of treated and untreated families experience at nearly identical rates. This pattern of results strongly suggests that household exposure causes an uptick in patient demand for prescription opioids. We rely on an instrumental variable estimation strategy to address the well-known challenges to estimating a causal effect of intra-household contagion, such as genotypic similarities among family members, assortative matching in partner selection, or clustering of health conditions within households. Our results spotlight the salience of the most ubiquitous social structure, the family household, in accelerating opioid consumption to unprecedented levels.


February 27, 2019

3:00pm to 4:30pm
Presenter(s) : 

Erik Brynjolfsson (MIT - Sloan)


The Productivity J-Curve: How Intangibles Complement General Purpose Technologies


General purpose technologies (GPTs) such as AI enable and require significant complementary investments, including business process redesign, co-invention of new products and business models, and investments in human capital. These complementary investments are often intangible and poorly measured in the national accounts, even if they create valuable assets for the firm. We develop a model that shows how this leads to an underestimation of output and productivity in the early years of a new GPT, and how later, when the benefits of intangible investments are harvested, productivity will be overestimated. Our model generates a Productivity J-Curve that can explain the productivity slowdowns often accompanying the advent of GPTs, as well as the follow-on increase in productivity later. We use our model to assess how AI-related intangible capital is currently affecting measured total factor productivity (TFP) and output. We also conduct a historical analysis of the roles of intangibles tied to R&D, software, and computer hardware, finding substantial and ongoing effects of software in particular and hardware to a lesser extent.