Katherine L. Milkman

Katherine L. Milkman
  • Evan C Thompson Endowed Term Chair for Excellence in Teaching
  • Professor of Operations, Information and Decisions

Contact Information

  • office Address:

    3730 Walnut Street
    566 Jon M. Huntsman Hall
    Philadelphia, PA 19104

Research Interests: experimental economics, behavioral economics, judgment and decision making

Links: CV, Personal Website, Wharton People Analytics

Overview

Katherine Milkman is a Professor at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and holds the Evan C Thompson Endowed Term Chair for Excellence in Teaching. She has a secondary appointment at Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine. Her research uses insights from economics and psychology to study how consequential behaviors (e.g., saving, exercising, medication adherence, discrimination) can be changed for good. In her TEDx talk, she describes some of her key findings on this topic.

Katherine has received numerous awards for her research including an early career award from the Federation of Associations in Behavioral & Brain Sciences. When under 30, Milkman was named one of the world’s top 40 business school professors under 40 by Poets and Quants and she was a finalist for the Thinkers 50 2017 Radar Thinker Award.  Her dozens of published articles in leading social science journals such as Management Science, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and The Journal of Finance have reached a wide audience through frequent coverage in major media outlets such as NPR, The New York Times, The Economist, The Washington Post, and The Financial Times. She is a regular contributor to The Washington Post, where she writes about the behavioral economics of everyday life.

Katherine has been recognized with many accolades for her ability to communicate ideas to students. She has repeatedly received the excellence in teaching award from Wharton’s undergraduate division, been voted Wharton’s “Iron Prof” by the school’s MBA students for a PechaKucha-style presentation of her research, and has been a repeated finalist for the Anvil Award for Wharton’s most outstanding MBA teacher.

She is an elected member of the Society for Judgment and Decision Making’s Executive Board and has been an associate editor for Management Science since 2013.  She has worked with numerous organizations on research and/or consulting, including Google, the U.S. Department of Defense, the American Red Cross, Humana, 24 Hour Fitness, the College Board, Wipro, and Cummins Engines.

Katherine co-directs the Behavior Change for Good Initiative at the University of Pennsylvania, whose work is being chronicled by Freakonomics Radio.

She received her undergraduate degree from Princeton University (summa cum laude) in Operations Research and Financial Engineering and her Ph.D. from Harvard University’s joint program in Computer Science and Business.

Twitter: @Katy_Milkman

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Research

  • Erika Kirgios, Edward Chang, Katherine L. Milkman (Under Review), Going It Alone: Competition Increases the Attractiveness of Minority Status.

    Abstract: Past research demonstrates that people prefer to affiliate with others who resemble them demographically. However, we posit that the strength of this tendency toward homophily may be moderated by strategic considerations when competing for scarce opportunities. Across six experiments, we find that anticipated competition weakens people’s desire to join groups that include similar others. When expecting to compete against fellow group members, women are more willing to join all-male groups and Black participants are more willing to join all-White groups than in the absence of competition. We show that this effect is mediated both by a belief that being distinct will lead your performance to stand out and by a desire to compete against demographically dissimilar others. Our findings offer a new perspective to enrich past research on homophily, shedding light on the instances when minorities are more likely to join groups in which they will be underrepresented.

  • Edward Chang, Erika Kirgios, Aneesh Rai, Katherine L. Milkman (2019), The Isolated Choice Effect and Its Implications for Gender Diversity in Organizations, Forthcoming at Management Science.

    Abstract: We highlight a feature of personnel selection decisions that can influence the gender diversity of groups and teams. Specifically, we show that people are less likely to choose candidates whose gender would increase group diversity when making personnel selections in isolation (i.e., when they are responsible for selecting a single group member) than when making collections of choices (i.e., when they are responsible for selecting multiple group members). We call this the isolated choice effect. Across 6 preregistered experiments (n=3,509), we demonstrate that the isolated choice effect has important consequences for group diversity. When making sets of hiring and selection decisions (as opposed to making a single hire), people construct more gender-diverse groups. Mediation and moderation studies suggest that people do not attend as much to diversity when making isolated selection choices, which drives this effect.

  • Edward Chang, Katherine L. Milkman, Dena Gromet, Reb Rebele, Cade Massey, Angela Duckworth, Adam Grant (2019), The Mixed Effects of Online Diversity Training, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    Abstract: We present results from a large (n = 3,016) field experiment at a global organization testing whether a brief science-based online diversity training can change attitudes and behaviors toward women in the workplace. Our preregistered field experiment included an active placebo control and measured participants’ attitudes and real workplace decisions up to 20 weeks postintervention. Among groups whose average untreated attitudes—whereas still supportive of women—were relatively less supportive of women than other groups, our diversity training successfully produced attitude change but not behavior change. On the other hand, our diversity training successfully generated some behavior change among groups whose average untreated attitudes were already strongly supportive of women before training. This paper extends our knowledge about the pathways to attitude and behavior change in the context of bias reduction. However, the results suggest that the one-off diversity trainings that are commonplace in organizations are unlikely to be stand-alone solutions for promoting equality in the workplace, particularly given their limited efficacy among those groups whose behaviors policymakers are most eager to influence.

  • Edward Chang, Katherine L. Milkman, Dolly Chugh, Modupe Akinola (2019), Diversity Thresholds: How Social Norms, Visibility, and Scrutiny Relate to Group Composition, Academy of Management Journal, 62 (1), pp. 144-171.

    Abstract: Across a field study and four experiments, we examine how social norms and scrutiny affect decisions about adding members of underrepresented populations (e.g., women, racial minorities) to groups. When groups are scrutinized, we theorize that decision makers strive to match the diversity observed in peer groups due to impression management concerns, thereby conforming to the descriptive social norm. We examine this first in the context of U.S. corporate boards, where firms face pressure to increase gender diversity. Analyses of S&P 1500 boards reveal that significantly more boards include exactly two women (the descriptive social norm) than would be expected by chance. This overrepresentation of two-women boards—a phenomenon we call “twokenism”—is more pronounced among more visible companies, consistent with our theorizing around impression management and scrutiny. Experimental data corroborate these findings and provide support for our theoretical mechanism: decision makers are discontinuously less likely to add a woman to a board once it includes two women (the social norm), and decision makers’ likelihood of adding a woman or minority to a group is influenced by the descriptive social norms and scrutiny faced. Together, these findings provide a new perspective on the persistent underrepresentation of women and minorities in organizations.

  • Leslie K. John, Katherine L. Milkman, F. Gino, Bradford Tuckfield, L Foschini, The Ineffectiveness of Inconspicuous Incentives: A Field Experiment on Inattention.

  • Angela Duckworth, David Laibson, Katherine L. Milkman, Beyond Willpower: Strategic Solutions for Reducing Self-Defeating Behavior.

  • Chethan Bachireddy, Andrew Joung, Leslie K. John, F. Gino, Bradford Tuckfield, L Foschini, Katherine L. Milkman (Under Review), Comparing Financial Incentive Structures for Promoting Physical Activity: A Randomized Controlled Trial.

  • Angela Duckworth and Katherine L. Milkman, Changing Behavior for Good.

  • Hengchen Dai, Berkeley J. Dietvorst, Katherine L. Milkman, Maurice Schweitzer (Forthcoming), Quitting: The downside of high performance expectations.

  • John Beshears, Shlomo Benartzi, Richard T. Mason, Katherine L. Milkman (Under Review), How Do Consumers Respond When Default Options Push the Envelope?.

Teaching

Current Courses

  • OIDD490 - Sci Of Behavior Change

    The objective of this 14-week discussion-based seminar for advanced undergraduates is to expose students to cutting-edge research from psychology and economics on the most effective strategies for changing behavior sustainably and for the better (e.g., promoting healthier eating and exercise, encouraging better study habits, and increasing savings rates). The weekly readings cover classic and current research in this area. The target audience for this course is advanced undergraduate students interested in behavioral science research and particularly those hoping to learn about using social science to change behavior for good. Although there are no pre-requisites for this class, it is well-suited to students who have taken (and enjoyed) courses like OIDD 290: Decision Processes, PPE 203/PSYC 265: Behavioral Economics and Psychology, and MKTG 266: Marketing for Social Impact and are interested in taking a deeper dive into the academic research related to promoting behavior change for good. Instructor permission is required to enroll in this course. Please complete the application if interested in registering for this seminar: https://tinyurl.com/bcfg-class-application. The application deadline is July 15, 2019. Prerequisite: Permissio of instructor required.

    OIDD490401 ( Syllabus )

  • PSYC490 - Sci Of Behavior Change

    This advanced seminar will expose students to cutting-edge research from psychology and economics on the most effective strategies for changing behavior for the better (e.g., promoting healthier eating and exercise, encouraging better study habits, and increasing savings rates). The weekly readings cover classic and current research in this area. For each topic we will cover, articles have been carefully chosen, and we will discuss those in detail. The goal is to help students develop the skill of reading and critiquing an academic paper. We will therefore have student led discussions of papers and required summaries. The target audience for this course is advanced undergraduate students interested in behavioral science research and particularly those hoping to learn about using social science to make a positive social impact. We will focus primarily on the applications of behavioral science to improving health, education and financial outcomes. Admission to this course is by application only. Please complete the application form to be considered for admission: https://tinyurl.com/bcfg-class-application

    PSYC490401 ( Syllabus )

Past Courses

  • MGMT690 - MANAG DECSN MAKING

    See OIDD 690. This is a cross-listed course with OIDD 690.

  • OIDD290 - DECISION PROCESSES

    This course is an intensive introduction to various scientific perspectives on the processes through which people make decisions. Perspectives covered include cognitive psychology of human problem-solving, judgment and choice, theories of rational judgment and decision, and the mathematical theory of games. Much of the material is technically rigorous. Prior or current enrollment in STAT 101 or the equivalent, although not required, is strongly recommended.

  • OIDD299 - JUDG & DEC MAKING RES IM

    This class provides a high-level introduction to the field of judgment and decision making (JDM) and in-depth exposure to the process of doing research in this area. Throughout the semester you will gain hands-on experience with several different JDM research projects. You will be paired with a PhD student or faculty mentor who is working on a variety of different research studies. Each week you will be given assignments that are central to one or more of these studies, and you will be given detailed descriptions of the research projects you are contributing to and how your assignments relate to the successful completion of these projects. To complement your hands-on research experience, throughout the semester you will be assigned readings from the book Nudge by Thaler and Sunstein, which summarizes key recent ideas in the JDM literature. You will also meet as a group for an hour once every three weeks with the class's faculty supervisor and all of his or her PhD students to discuss the projects you are working on, to discuss the class readings, and to discuss your own research ideas stimulated by getting involved in various projects. Date and time to be mutually agreed upon by supervising faculty and students. the 1CU version of this course will involve approx. 10 hours of research immersion per week and a 10-page paper. The 0.5 CU version of this course will involve approx 5 hours of research immersion per week and a 5-page final paper. Please contact Maurice Schweitzer if you are interested in enrolling in the course: schweitzer@wharton.upenn.edu

  • OIDD490 - SCI OF BEHAVIOR CHANGE

    The objective of this 14-week discussion-based seminar for advanced undergraduates is to expose students to cutting-edge research from psychology and economics on the most effective strategies for changing behavior sustainably and for the better (e.g., promoting healthier eating and exercise, encouraging better study habits, and increasing savings rates). The weekly readings cover classic and current research in this area. The target audience for this course is advanced undergraduate students interested in behavioral science research and particularly those hoping to learn about using social science to change behavior for good. Although there are no pre-requisites for this class, it is well-suited to students who have taken (and enjoyed) courses like OIDD 290: Decision Processes, PPE 203/PSYC 265: Behavioral Economics and Psychology, and MKTG 266: Marketing for Social Impact and are interested in taking a deeper dive into the academic research related to promoting behavior change for good. Instructor permission is required to enroll in this course. Please complete the application if interested in registering for this seminar: https://tinyurl.com/bcfg-class-application. The application deadline is July 15, 2019. Prerequisite: Permissio of instructor required.

  • OIDD690 - MANAG DECSN MAKING

    The course is built around lectures reviewing multiple empirical studies, class discussion,and a few cases. Depending on the instructor, grading is determined by some combination of short written assignments, tests, class participation and a final project (see each instructor's syllabus for details).

  • PSYC490 - SCI OF BEHAVIOR CHANGE

    This advanced seminar will expose students to cutting-edge research from psychology and economics on the most effective strategies for changing behavior for the better (e.g., promoting healthier eating and exercise, encouraging better study habits, and increasing savings rates). The weekly readings cover classic and current research in this area. For each topic we will cover, articles have been carefully chosen, and we will discuss those in detail. The goal is to help students develop the skill of reading and critiquing an academic paper. We will therefore have student led discussions of papers and required summaries. The target audience for this course is advanced undergraduate students interested in behavioral science research and particularly those hoping to learn about using social science to make a positive social impact. We will focus primarily on the applications of behavioral science to improving health, education and financial outcomes. Admission to this course is by application only. Please complete the application form to be considered for admission: https://tinyurl.com/bcfg-class-application

Awards and Honors

  • William F. O’Dell Award for the Most Impactful 2012 Journal of Marketing Research Article, 2017
  • Finalist for the Thinkers50 Radar Award, 2017
  • Excellence in Teaching Award for the Undergraduate Division at Wharton, 2016
  • Finalist for the Anvil Award for the Most Outstanding MBA Teacher at Wharton, 2015
  • Elected Faculty Marshal for Wharton MBA Class of 2015, 2015
  • Excellence in Teaching Award for the Undergraduate Division at Wharton, 2015
  • Society for Judgment and Decision Making FABBS Early Career Award Winner, 2015
  • Marketing Science Institute Young Scholar, 2015
  • SSRN Honor: Author of One of the 10 Most Downloaded Papers of the Year, 2014
  • Finalist for the Anvil Award for the Most Outstanding MBA Teacher at Wharton, 2014
  • Finalist for the Paul E. Green Award for the Best 2012 Journal of Marketing Research Article, 2013
  • Voted Winner of the Wharton “Iron Prof” Competition, 2013
  • Dorinda and Mark Winkelman Distinguished Scholar Award, 2012
  • Poets & Quants Selection: “World’s Best 40 B-School Professors under the Age of 40”, 2011
  • The Wyss Award from Harvard Business School for Excellence in Doctoral Research, 2008
  • The Willard Thorp Thesis Prize in American Studies from Princeton University, 2004
  • The Lore von Jaskowsky Memorial Prize in Engineering from Princeton University, 2004
  • Omega Rho Undergraduate Project Research Award from INFORMS, 2004

In the News

Knowledge @ Wharton

Activity

Latest Research

Erika Kirgios, Edward Chang, Katherine L. Milkman (Under Review), Going It Alone: Competition Increases the Attractiveness of Minority Status.
All Research

In the News

Does Diversity Training Really Work?

New research from Wharton examines whether online diversity training really changes the behaviors and attitudes of employees.

Knowledge @ Wharton - 2019/05/15
All News

Awards and Honors

William F. O’Dell Award for the Most Impactful 2012 Journal of Marketing Research Article 2017
All Awards