Song Yao (姚松)

Associate Professor of Marketing, Washington University

Principal Economist, Amazon Core AI

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I am an economist working at the intersection between economics and marketing. I am a Principal Economist at Amazon's Core AI group and an Associate Professor of Marketing at Olin Business School, Washington University in St. Louis. My research interests include advertising, pricing, retailing, and competitive strategy. I explore these topics by applying methods of empirical industrial organization, econometrics, and machine learning. I have won the Paul Green Best Paper Award (2012) and the John Howard Dissertation Award (2009), both of which are sponsored by the American Marketing Association. I was the finalist for the INFORMS Frank Bass Outstanding Dissertation Award in 2011 and 2012, the John Little Best Paper Award in 2009 and 2011, the Long Term Impact Award in 2017, the Dick Wittink Prize in 2018, and the Paul Green Best Paper Award in 2021. I was also selected by the Marketing Science Institute as one of the MSI Young Scholars of 2017.

I am serving on the Editorial Review Board of the Journal of Marketing Research, Marketing Science, and International Journal of Research in Marketing. I am also the Associate Editor of the journal Quantitative Marketing and Economics and a former AE at Service Science.

Prior to joining Olin, I taught “Digital/Internet Marketing,” “Customer Analytics,” and “Marketing Management” at the University of Minnesota (Carlson), Northwestern University (Kellogg), and Duke University (Fuqua).

PhD (Business Administration), Duke University, 2009

MA (Economics), UCLA , 2004

BA (Economics), Renmin University of China, 1999

Contact Information

One Brookings Drive Campus Box 1156

Washington University

St. Louis, MO 63130, US


Official Faculty Profile: Olin Faculty Page

Recent Research

Google Scholar, SSRN, LinkedIn, Twitter

Social-distancing and masking boost consumer spending instead of smothering it:

In a recent study with Nan Zhao, Raphael Thomadsen, and Zack Wang, we consider how social distancing and facial mask mandates affect COVID-19 spread and consumer spending (a nice news report on the findings). We find while social distancing reduces COVID-19 spread, mask mandates offset the negative effect of social distancing on consumer spending, potentially because they also increase people's outdoor activities and reduce social distancing. Other non-masking governmental interventions slow the spread of COVID-19 but reduce spending substantially. However, these interventions are cost-effective way of saving lives. Were the mask mandates and other government interventions removed, we would witness much higher case number and death toll.

Lack of social-distancing in the US leads to substantial new COVID-19 cases and deaths:

To better understand how social-distancing affects the progress of the pandemic, we study the contagion patterns of COVID-19 by combining county infection data with social-distancing data based on cellphone GPS locations (coauthored with Meng Liu and Raphael Thomadsen, published in Scientific Reports). We have also built a website showing our forecasts. We find that social-distancing does slow down the spread of the virus. However, the US continues increasing their social activity levels since the summer. If this trend continues, according to our forecast, the total case number might surpass 20 million when Biden takes office in January 2021. Here is a nice write-up about our research. CNN, NBC, USNews, and several other news outlets covered this research.

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