The Department of Economics welcomes Robert Metcalfe, Ph.D. to USC. Dr, Metcalfe, an applied microeconomist, joins the faculty as Visiting Associate Professor of Economics bringing a unique blend of academic insight and applied experience. Rob Metcalfe tests economic theory in collaboration with industry and government partners. Much of that research focuses on the energy and environmental markets, transportation, firm and labor productivity, and digital platforms. Using field experiments, in collaboration with industry and government partners such as Virgin Airlines, Southern California Gas, Uber, Lyft, Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) and the U.S. Social Security Administration, he identifies practical solutions to business and government challenges.
In two influential papers, he illustrated how companies can use economic and data science with experimentation to increase company efficiency and environmental quality. A project with Virgin Atlantic designed to improve the productivity of airline captains resulted in significantly reducing fuel costs and CO2 emissions while increasing job satisfaction at the same time. A second project using Uber data documented that consumers valued UberX services at $1.60 per dollar spent on the service.
His research has also made important contributions to environmental policy. His research has shown, for example, that energy price subsidies to low income groups can result in higher energy consumption than an equivalent income transfer. This suggests that pursuing equity goals through energy subsidies as opposed to fiscal instruments comes at the expense of the environment. In a different project he also shows how simple social nudges, such as information on how your energy consumption compares to your neighbors’, are effective and inexpensive tools to lower both peak load and average energy consumption in California.
Previously, Metcalfe was an Assistant Professor in Markets, Public Policy, and Law at the Questrom School of Business, Boston University where he held the Reidy Family Career Development Assistant Professorship. In addition, he was a Postdoctoral Research Scholar in Economics at the University of Chicago. He completed his M.Sc. at the London School of Economics and his Ph.D. at Imperial College London.
He is a co-founder of two start-ups that originated from his research. Both located in London, the Behaviouralist is a research consultancy that works with companies to evaluate solutions to some of the biggest problems facing society, from reducing pollution and waste to boosting growth and well-being. Signol works with companies to make proven changes in behavior, productivity and happiness that make major differences leading to higher profits.