Projects that Received Funding in the Previous Grant Cycle

Saving Black Portland: Reimaging Urban Redevelopment as a Tool for Black Economic Empowerment
Angela Addae, J.D. Phd, Assistant Professor of Law

From Tulsa, Oklahoma to Portland, Oregon, coalitions of Black businesses, also known as “Black Wall Streets”, have long endured racial terrorism, destruction, and displacement. The research will examine the historical and contemporary effects of urban redevelopment on Black businesses in Portland, Oregon.  There are two primary objectives.  First, it seeks to understand the social, political, and organizational infrastructure of the historic Albina District. Secondly, researchers will explore the different pathways through which municipal efforts advance or hinder Black economic growth in pursuit of urban redevelopment goals. The goal is to identify a mutually-beneficial approach    that recognizes the value of public and private contributions, increases transparency and accountability, and promotes economically diverse neighborhoods in Portland, Oregon.

 

Charitable Giving and Decision Making
Ashley Angulo, PhD, Assistant Professor of Marketing, Lundquist College of Business
Samuel Park, PhD student in Marketing

When charities make requests via email, flyers, or campaigns, they often add numerical  content, presumably because it communicates their need, what can be accomplished with the funds, or how many people would be aided with the contribution. This research will test consumer behavior and charitable giving decision-making at the individual consumer level and will include testing interventions to increase charitable donations to local Oregon organizations.


 
Whose Consumer Complaints are Taken Seriously?
Sanjay Srivastava, Professor, Psychology Department
Bradley Hughes, GTF, Psychology Department

A growing body of research suggests that in a variety of interpersonal settings, people may be stereotyped and treated differently as a function of their socioeconomic status (SES).  This research will test if the SES-based stereotypes shape the responses Oregonians receive when they talk about their experiences as consumers. Differential treatment has the potential to compound the effect of economic inequality, making this and increasingly important issue of equity an justice for Oregon consumers. As part of the process, the results from this project will be published.


 
Toward a Comprehensive Data Privacy Law for Oregonians
Bryce Clayton Newell, J.D., Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Media Law and Policy, School of Journalism and Communication

In the last few years, there has been a renewed push toward enacting more comprehensive forms of consumer and data privacy legislation in the United States. This research will be focused on data privacy legislation in the United States and in Europe. This project is responsive to three types of consumer-related research: legal research, policy research, and community impacts. It will result in the publication of multiple academic papers and a public report that will include policy recommendations and model statutory language designed to inform the development of comprehensive data privacy legislation here in Oregon.


 
Law Reform to Protect Low-Income and BIPOC Consumers in Oregon
Tom Lininger, Professor of Law

Revising attorneys’ ethical codes is a new frontier for consumer protection. This project focuses on two topics of vital importance to the low-income, black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) communities in Oregon.  For the first project, attention will focus on two categories of the rules of evidence -- those governing evidentiary privileges and impeachment of witnesses -- which currently do not adequately protect low-income and BIPOC communities in Oregon and throughout the U.S.  The second project will examine lawyers’ involvement in clients’ mistreatment of consumers, especially those who are historical marginalized.  At the conclusion of each project, there will be recommendations for legal reforms that Oregon could adopt.  The proposals will be in a form that will allow easy adoption by bar officials in Oregon and elsewhere.


 
Feeling Watched:  How Customers Respond when Tip Selections are Visible to Employees and Other Patrons
Nathan Warren, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Marketing, Lundquist College of Business, University of Oregon
Robert P. Booth Associate Professor of Marketing
Sara Hanson, Assistant Professor of Marketing

The introduction of digital point-of-sale technologies into consumer services, such as quick-service restaurants and food trucks, dramatically changed the ways that consumers tip employees. Where customers previously may have left a small amount of change in a jar or not even known that tipping was an option, customers today are frequently prompted to select a tip amount on a digital screen. Importantly, these new digital tipping screens are often mounted so that they may be observed, or at least customers may feel they are being observed, by the employees who are serving them and by other nearby customers. The concern is that the observability of digital tipping screens puts pressure on consumers, who may respond to increasing observability by tipping more than they would otherwise.  This research will help to understand how the increasing observability of tip selections is affecting consumers. 

 

Projects that Received Funding in the Previous Grant Cycles

High Bill Alerts for Consumer Protection and Conservation:  Experimental Evidence from the Energy SectorProfessor Grant Jacobsen, School of Planning, Public Policy and Management

Low-income consumers in Oregon face a substantial energy burden, which is the share of household income that goes toward energy costs. For example, 27% of Oregonians struggle to pay their energy bills (Oregon Energy Fund, 2019). Higher energy burdens have been shown to be concentrated in low-income and underserved households. For example, Kontokosta et al. (2020) present evidence from the American Housing Survey and Residential Energy Consumption Survey that energy cost burdens are higher for BIPOC households than non-Hispanic White households. Relatedly, Lyubich (2020) uses data from the American Community Survey to show that Black households have higher energy expenditures than non-Hispanic White households in the United States, regardless of whether examining renters or homeowners, after controlling for income, household size, home-owner status, and city of residence. A higher energy burden has been associated with negative long-term effects on health and well-being (Drehobl and Ross, 2016).

For consumers with high energy burdens, an unusually high bill can pose especially large challenges for their household budget and for affording necessities. In the coming years, such unexpected bill shocks may become more common as utilities in Oregon transition to time-variant pricing schemes (e.g., time-of-use (TOU) pricing).

Due in part to the energy burden facing many households, as well as the shift toward time-variant prices, utilities and public utility commissions are presently considering “high bill alert” programs that would notify households when monthly expenditures are projected to exceed their normal level based on usage levels at the beginning of the billing cycle. In theory, high bill alerts can help households identify otherwise undetected sources of energy waste and motivate energy conservation to avoid dramatic bill shocks. High bill alerts, however, are a new tool in the energy sector, and high bill alert programs can be expensive to implement. The extent to which high bill alert programs are adopted going forward is likely to depend on whether empirical research demonstrates their effectiveness at helping households avoid large bills and their overall effectiveness at inducing conservation.

The proposed research, which is described in detail in the next section, would evaluate the effect of high bill alerts on household energy consumption based on data from a field experiment implemented with Xcel Energy. The goal of the project would be to produce a peer-reviewed journal article that evaluates the effect of high bill alerts on household energy consumption. To the best of my knowledge, no such study exists within the existing literature.

Bounded Awareness in Consumer Decision Making Regarding Plastics

Professor T. Bettina Cornwell, Lundquist College of Business

As background, the worldwide plastics pollution crisis is inextricably linked to accepting or refusing plastic products, and plastic packaging. The predominance of research on consumer plastics focuses on recycling and this focus has been argued to be perpetuated by oil producing and consumer goods companies. In comparison to other states, Oregon, is a leader in plastics recycling but is not one of the best states in terms of overall consumption of common container and plastics materials.

The purpose of this research is to investigate the role that high quality waste management and high levels of recycling may play in plastics consumption. In particular, the work proposes to examine how bounded awareness (where a consumer’s focus on one thing, here, recycling as a solution to the plastics problem, precludes consideration of information regarding the failure of recycling). The research also seeks to rule out the possibility that individuals have inadequate relevant information to inform their decision making, and to assess the role of established beliefs and current pro-environmental behaviors influence decision making.

This research would directly benefit Oregon residents if understanding of plastics consumption and decision making was improved so that effective interventions could be designed to reduce the generation of plastic waste. With regard to diversity and inclusion, we are also seeking to include native peoples of Oregon.

Oregon CARES: Evaluating Targeted Relief Funds for Black Owned Businesses

Professor Angela Addae, Law School

This project examines the outcomes of the Oregon Cares Fund, a targeted relief effort that directed funds to Oregon’s Black-owned businesses in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Faced with a mounting public health crisis and escalating economic turmoil, Oregon leaders were forced to make critical decisions to mitigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on local businesses. However, evidence regarding early distributions of federal funds revealed that race-neutral programs such as the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) failed to reach Black Oregonians (Kish, 2020). Such failures reflected the historical exclusion of Black-owned businesses from governmental funding efforts. For example, in 2019, the Small Business Administration granted merely four loans to Black-owned businesses in Oregon (Kish, 2020). Federal data also concluded that Black-owned businesses were shuttering at higher rates than white-owned businesses (Fitzhugh et al., 2020). To make matters worse, Black-owned businesses had less access to banking relationships and sources of capital that would enable them to weather pandemic-related losses (Lund, 2020; Burd-Sharps and Rasch, 2015).

Oregon state leaders recognized that—without targeted intervention—inequitable distribution of relief funds would result in multiple harms: (1) it would perpetuate long-standing economic disparities caused by historical racism and discrimination; and (2) it would exacerbate the effects of COVID-19 on communities that were already disproportionately bearing the weight of the pandemic. Oregon legislators conceded that the extraordinary times called for extraordinary measures. In an unprecedented move, state leaders set aside 4% of the money received from Congress—$62 million of the state’s $1.4 billion in CARES Act funds—for Black businesses, families, and nonprofit organizations that could demonstrate COVID-related hardships.

This effort, known as the Oregon Cares Fund for Black Relief and Resiliency, drew tremendous support and criticism from community members. However, the funds were eventually distributed to Black-owned businesses across the state, and the outcomes of the Oregon Cares Fund have yet to be reviewed. This project seeks to deploy mixed-method, qualitative analyses to evaluate the successes and challenges of the Oregon Cares Fund and its impact on consumer-facing, Black- owned business recipients.

Consumer Privacy Protection Behaviors in an Increasingly Complex Environment

Professor Hong Yuan, Lundquist College of Business

The rapid growth in innovation and use of consumer technology in recent years highlights the critical need for consumer privacy protection in an increasingly digitalized world (K. D. Martin & Murphy, 2017; Tene & Polonetsky, 2013). While many of these innovations increase transparency, speed, efficiency and quality of life for consumers, they may also expose consumers to cyber fraud, identity theft and other manipulative data practices. Moreover, certain populations of consumers (e.g., older and less educated consumers) are especially vulnerable to these fraudulent practices.

The severity and prevalence of consumer privacy violation, as highlighted by a litany of data privacy scandals (e.g., Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica, Equifax, etc.) have prompted heated debate and legislative effort to protect consumers. For instance, the recent European GDPR law and the CCPA law have aimed to hold big tech companies accountable for violations of consumer privacy. Likewise, many scholars and consumer advocates argue that privacy is an inherent right that should receive institutionalized protection (Solove, 2008).

However, the effectiveness of such institutionalized effort remains debatable, and consequently consumers continue to struggle to protect their own privacy as companies become more adept at harvesting consumer data. Exacerbating this issue is a psychological phenomenon, dubbed “the privacy paradox,” whereby consumers fail to take appropriate protective actions despite their increased level of privacy concerns (Awad & Krishnan, 2006; Norberg, Horne, & Horne, 2007).

Surprisingly, there is a dearth of research aimed at either (1) identifying conditions in which consumers are more susceptible to privacy violations or (2) proposing effective interventions to protect consumers in such situations (Tene & Polonetsky, 2013). Although some existing research suggests that requiring companies to provide more transparency and give consumers greater control over their own information might mitigate consumer privacy concerns (Brandimarte, Acquisti, & Loewenstein, 2012; K. D. Martin & Murphy, 2017; Tucker, 2014), these interventions may inadvertently increase consumer vulnerability by enhancing their trust in company platforms and subsequently lowering their guards online (Brandimarte et al., 2012; Tucker, 2014).

In an effort to build a theory-driven approach to enhancing consumer well-being while addressing this gap in the literature, the current research proposes a multi-method approach (including text analysis, field and controlled experiments). We ask two main questions. First, what are the environmental and psychological conditions that may inhibit consumers’ effort or ability to protect their own privacy?  Second, and relatedly, what interventions would be most effective at helping consumers protect their privacy at the individual level?

Our research aims to address these issues directly. Drawing from literatures in consumer privacy (Acquisti et al., 2020), control (Deci & Ryan, 2000; Skinner, 1996), and coping (Dweck, 2000), we investigate how consumers cope with privacy violations, and how their coping mechanisms might be influenced by the level of contingency in the environment. Specifically, our research show that privacy violations incur a loss of resource control to consumers. Consumers may attempt to regain this control by punishing the violating actors (e.g., companies), but only when the market context offers a sense of high contingency (i.e., that desired consumption outcomes are causally connected to their own behavior). For example, despite Amazon’s pervasive and violating techniques around harvesting consumer data, consumers perceive the e-commerce industry as being non-contingent and therefore fail to take action against the company that would otherwise occur. Importantly, this perception does not always reflect economic reality. It therefore represents a psychological error that consumers often make, leading them to forfeit their own privacy due to an erroneous sense of helplessness. By investigating the role of perceived contingency across consumer-facing industries, our research seeks to relieve the burdens consumers ordinarily face when attempting to protect or reclaim their privacy.