Judd B. Kessler

Judd B. Kessler
  • Associate Professor of Business Economics and Public Policy

Contact Information

  • office Address:

    320 Vance Hall
    3733 Spruce Street
    Philadelphia, PA 19104

Research Interests: Experimental Economics, Public Economics, Behavioral Economics, Market Design

Links: Personal Website, CV


Professor Judd B. Kessler received a B.A. in Economics from Harvard University in 2004, an M.Phil. in Economics from Cambridge University in 2005, and his Ph.D. in Business Economics from Harvard University in 2011. In his research, Kessler uses a combination of laboratory and field experiments to answer questions in Public Economics, Behavioral Economics, and Market Design. He investigates the economic and psychological forces that motivate individuals to contribute to public goods inside and outside the workplace, with applications including organ donation, worker effort, and charitable giving. He also investigates market design innovations, placing particular emphasis on bringing market design from theory to practice, with applications including course allocation and priority systems for organ allocation. His research has appeared in general interest journals including the American Economic Review, the Quarterly Journal of Economics, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and Management Science. In 2012, Kessler was named one of Forbes Magazine’s “30 under 30” in Law and Policy.


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For a current list of my publications and working papers, please visit my personal website.


  • Corinne Low, Judd B. Kessler, Colin Sullivan (Forthcoming), Incentivized Resume Rating: Eliciting Employer Preferences without Deception.

    Abstract: We introduce a new experimental paradigm to evaluate employer preferences, called Incentivized Resume Rating (IRR). Employers evaluate resumes they know to be hypothetical in order to be matched with real job seekers, preserving incentives while avoiding the deception necessary in audit studies. We deploy IRR with employers recruiting college seniors from a prestigious school, randomizing human capital characteristics and demographics of hypothetical candidates. We measure both employer preferences for candidates and employer beliefs about the likelihood candidates will accept job offers, avoiding a typical confound in audit studies. We discuss the costs, benefits, and future applications of this new methodology.

  • Jennie Huang, Judd B. Kessler, Muriel Niederle (Draft), The Value of Information and the Role of Fairness in Bargaining.

    Abstract: Research from the last three decades suggests that fairness plays an important role in economic transactions. However, the vast majority of this evidence investigates behavior in a full-information environment. We develop a new experimental paradigm—which nests the widely used Ultimatum Game—to show that the role of fairness in economic transactions depends fundamentally on the information structure. We find that when transacting agents are less informed, inequality increases. In the absence of information, proposers give less-fair offers and report believing that responders will accept them. Responders do, in fact, accept less-fair offers when proposers are informed, suggesting that responders are concerned about their social image or proposers’ intentions.

  • Amanda Chuan, Judd B. Kessler, Katy Milkman (2018), A Field Study of Charitable Giving Reveals that Reciprocity Decays over Time, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    Abstract: We examine how reciprocity changes over time by studying a large quasi-experiment in the field. Specifically, we analyze administrative data from a university hospital system. The data include information about over 18,000 donation requests made by the hospital system via mail to a set of its former patients in the four months following their first hospital visit. We exploit quasi-experimental variation in the timing of solicitation mailings relative to patient hospital visits and find that an extra 30-day delay between the provision of medical care and a donation solicitation decreases the likelihood of a donation by 30%. Our findings have important implications for models of economic behavior, which currently fail to incorporate reciprocity’s sensitivity to time. The fact that reciprocal behavior decays rapidly as time passes also suggests the importance of capitalizing quickly on opportunities to benefit from a quid pro quo.

    Description: Datasets in "A Field Study of Charitable Giving Reveals that Reciprocity Decays over Time"   Dataset regression_deid is the deidentified dataset used to create main and supplemental regression tables (Fig. 1, Tables 3,  S1-S3, S5-S7, and S10). Dataset regression_deidexp is the deidentified dataset used to create regression tables exploring the role of patient experience (tables S8 and S9). Dataset sumstat_deid is the deidentified dataset used to create summary statistics tables (Tables 1, 2, S2, and S4).

  • Judd B. Kessler, Katherine L. Milkman, C. Yiwei Zhang (Forthcoming), Getting the Rich and Powerful to Give.

  • Ezekiel J. Emanuel, P. Ubel, Judd B. Kessler, G. Meyer, R. Muller, Amol Navathe, P. Patel, R. Pearl, MB Rosenthal, L. Sacks, AP Sen, P. Sherman, Kevin Volpp (2015), Using Behavioral Economics to Design Physician Incentives that Deliver High Value Care, Annals of Internal Medicine, 24, pp. 1-7.

  • Judd B. Kessler and Alvin Roth (2014), Getting More Organs for Transplantation, American Economic Review, Papers and Proceedings.

  • Judd B. Kessler and Stephan Meier (2014), Learning from (Failed) Replications: Cognitive Load Manipulations and Charitable Giving, Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization.

  • Judd B. Kessler and C. Yiwei Zhang (2014), Behavioral Economics and Health, Oxford Textbook of Public Health.

  • Judd B. Kessler and Lise Vesterlund (2014), The External Validity of Laboratory Experiments: Qualitative rather than Quantitative Effects, The Methods of Modern Experimental Economics.

  • Judd B. Kessler and Alvin Roth (2014), Organ Donation Loopholes Undermine Giving: An Experiment Motivated By Priority Loopholes in Israel, Journal of Public Economics.


Spring 2019 – BEPP 220/620: “Behavioral Economics, Markets and Public Policy” (Undergraduate and MBA)

Spring 2019 – BEPP 904 “Experimental Economics” (PhD)

Fall 2012, 2013, 2015, 2017 – MGEC 611/612: “Managerial Economics” (MBA)

Spring 2012 – BPUB 250: “Managerial Economics” (Undergraduate)


Past Courses


    Behavioral economics has revealed a variety of systematic ways in which people deviate from being perfectly selfish, rational, optimizing agents. These findings have important implications for government policy and firm behavior. This course will explore these implications by answering two main questions: (1) what does behavorial economics imply for when and how the government should intervene in markets? (2) What does behavioral economics imply for firms' pricing and production decisions? The course will present the standard economic approaches to answering these questions and then explore how answers change when we consider that people act in behavioral ways. Towards the end of the course, we will investigate specific policy questions, allowing us to debate solutions while hearing from policy makers operating in a world of behavioral agents.



    This course will help prepare you to run your own economics laboratory and field experiments. Experimental methods have been widely adopted by economists to develop new insights, and some economic theories and hypotheses are uniquely well-suited for testing with experimental tools and data. Achieving high internal and external validity requires careful experimental design. Substantive areas of application in the course will include market equilibrium, asset bubbles, learning in games, public good provision, and labor market relationships. Additional topics may include biases in individual decision-making; field experiments in development economics; and happiness, neuroeconomics, and behavioral/experimental welfare economics. Economists' typical interests in strategic and market-based interactions raise particular methodological challenges and opportunities.


    This course establishes the micro-economic foundations for understanding business decision-making. The course will cover consumer theory and market demand under full information, market equilibrium and government intervention, production theory and cost optimization, producing in perfectly competitive and monopoly markets, vertical relations, and game theory, including simultaneous, sequential, and infinitely repeated games. Finally, we will wrap up game theory with an application to auctions. Students are expected to have mastered these materials before enrolling in the second quarter course: Microeconomics for Managers: Advanced Applications.


    This course will cover the economic foundations of business strategy and decision-making in market environments with other strategic actors and less than full information, as well as advanced pricing strategies. Topics include oligopoly models of market competition, creation, and protection, sophisticated pricing strategies for consumers with different valuations or consumers who buy multiple units (e.g. price discrimination, bundling, two-part tariffs), strategies for managing risk and making decisions under uncertainty, asymmetric information and its consequences for markets, and finally moral hazard and principle-agent theory with application to incentive contacts.


    Many theories in economics can be tested usefully in experiments in which researchers control parameters that are uncontrolled in natural settings. This course presents the theory of the experimental method and validity along with several examples of experimental testing: simple competitive equilibrium, intertemporal competitive equilibrium, asset markets, futures markets, bargaining models, tournaments, reputation-building in repeated games, etc.

Awards and Honors

  • Named “30 under 30” in Law and Policy by Forbes Magazine, 2012
  • Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Donaghue Foundation Pioneer Portfolio Grant Recipient, 2012 Description

    Project Title: “Using Behavioral Economics to Promote Medication Adherence and Habit Formation” (with Dmitry Taubinsky and Eric Zwick)

    Total Received for Project: $150,400

    • Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Pioneer Portfolio and the Donaghue Foundation ($100,000)
    • Sub-Award from Laibson/Madrian Grant ($30,000)
    • Lab for Economic Applications and Policy at Harvard ($12,000)
    • Penn-CMU Roybal Grant ($8,400)
  • Roger Martin Award for Excellence in Business Economics, Harvard Business School, 2011
  • National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, 2005-2008

In the News

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Latest Research

Corinne Low, Judd B. Kessler, Colin Sullivan (Forthcoming), Incentivized Resume Rating: Eliciting Employer Preferences without Deception.
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In the News

Uncovering Bias: A New Way to Study Hiring Can Help

New Wharton research develops a novel method for studying the hiring process, finding that race and gender biases likely impact who gets hired at some of the world’s top firms.

Knowledge @ Wharton - 2019/07/18
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