CANCELLED Success Breeds Success: Weight Loss Dynamics in the Presence of Short-Term and Long-Term Goals


SpeakerNathan Yang

Date: Friday, September 22nd from 10 AM – 12 PM

Location: HS 108 (Health Sciences Building, 155 College Street, Toronto ON)


We investigate the role of short-term goal achievement on long-term goal achievement under the context of weight loss. Using novel large-scale data from a freemium mobile weight management application, we track the daily dynamics of weight loss across a large number of users. The application sets a salient daily budget for calories, and by comparing cases in which the user is slightly under or over-budget, we provide an empirical link between short-term goal achievement and various long-term outcomes. Most importantly, we show that our results are robust to potential manipulation of calories consumption around the goal by implementing a nonparametric manipulation-robust regression discontinuity design. Next, we demonstrate using a dynamic regression discontinuity design that the short-term goal achievement effects persist over time, which reveals the self-reinforcing nature of short-term achievements. Finally, estimates from a dynamic structural model of calories management reveal that users receive positive utility from past short-term goal accomplishments, and counterfactual analysis with the estimated model quantify the long-run user benefits of various hypothetical policies that adjust the budget of calories.



Nathan Yang is an Assistant Professor in Marketing at McGill Desautels Faculty of Management. He is also a Research Fellow at the Centre interuniversitaire de recherche en économie quantitative (CIREQ), Researcher at the Center for Interuniversity Research and Analysis of Organizations (CIRANO), Academic Member at the McGill Centre for the Convergence of Health and Economics (MCCHE), Faculty Associate at the Canadian Centre for Health Economics (CCHE), and Associate Member at the Group for Research in Decision Analysis (GERAD). Nathan received his Ph.D and M.A. in Economics from the University of Toronto, where his doctoral studies were funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), as well as the NET Institute summer research grant. Prior to his graduate studies, he received a B.Sc. in Mathematics from the University of Alberta. His main research interests are in quantitative marketing and empirical industrial organization.