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Preference heterogeneity in experiments: Comparing the field and lab

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  • Steffen Andersen
  • Glenn Harrison
  • Morten Lau
  • Elisabet Rustrom

Abstract

Economists recognize that preferences can differ across individuals. We examine the strengths and weaknesses of lab and field experiments to detect differences in preferences that are associated with standard, observable characteristics of the individual. We consider preferences over risk and time, two fundamental concepts of economics. Our results provide striking evidence that there are good reasons to conduct field experiments. The lab fails to detect preference heterogeneity that is present in the field, obviously due to the demographic homogeneity of the lab. There are also differences in treatment effects measured in the lab and the field that can be traced to interactions between treatment and demographic effects. These can only be detected and controlled for properly in the field data. Thus one cannot simply claim, without additional empirical argument or assumption, that treatment effects estimated in the lab are reliable.

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File URL: http://karlan.yale.edu/fieldexperiments/papers/00004.pdf
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by The Field Experiments Website in its series Artefactual Field Experiments with number 00004.

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Date of creation: 2004
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Handle: RePEc:feb:artefa:00004

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Web page: http://www.fieldexperiments.com

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Cited by:
  1. Gary Charness & Marie Claire Villeval, 2009. "Cooperation and Competition in Intergenerational Experiments in the Field and in the Laboratory," Post-Print halshs-00371984, HAL.
  2. Alma Cohen & Liran Einav, 2005. "Estimating Risk Preferences from Deductible Choice," Discussion Papers 04-031, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.

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