Tom Chang: Adding Data to the Discussion

For Professor of Finance and Business Economics Tom Chang, adding data to the discussion is the point.

February 19, 2020

“My role is to add data to the discussion.”


Economist Tom Chang has been known to say that he often gets his ideas for research studies by asking, “What’s a stupid thing I do? If a lot of other people also do this, what are the consequences for firms, markets, and society?”

With a wealth of answers to the first question, Chang’s prompt has led the prolific scholar to explore subjects ranging from the seismic risk of hospital locations to the impact of marijuana dispensaries on crime, to corporate environmental issues, and finance and financial decision-making. One constant thread is his expertise at using data to address decision-making mistakes.

In a recent working paper, “Reverse Animal Spirits,” with Wei Huang and Yongxiang Wang, Chang demonstrates that visceral factors can have a significant effect on individual decision-making over risk in both professional and personal domains. Prior to this work, in May 2019 he published “Battle for the Thermostat: Gender and the Effect of Temperature on Cognitive Performance” in PLoS ONE. In January 2019, Chang’s paper,The Effect of Pollution on Worker Productivity: Evidence from Call-Center Workers in China,” with Joshua Graff-Zivin, Tal Gross and Matthew Neidell, appeared in the American Economic Journal: Applied Economics.

In addition to academic papers, Chang writes policy pieces for organizations such as the CATO Institute, the Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, and VoxEU, a platform established by the Centre for Economic Policy Research to promote research-based policy analysis and commentary by leading economists. He also has published multiple articles in the Harvard Business Review.

Chang joined the faculty at USC in 2009, after completing his doctoral studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was named a research fellow at both the Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics, and the Dornsife Center for Economic and Social Research in 2013, and Associate Professor of Finance and Business Economics in 2018.