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On the Generalizability of Experimental Results in Economics

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  • Omar Al-Ubaydli
  • John A. List

Abstract

Economists are increasingly turning to the experimental method as a means to estimate causal effects. By using randomization to identify key treatment effects, theories previously viewed as untestable are now scrutinized, efficacy of public policies are now more easily verified, and stakeholders can swiftly add empirical evidence to aid their decision-making. This study provides an overview of experimental methods in economics, with a special focus on developing an economic theory of generalizability. Given that field experiments are in their infancy, our secondary focus pertains to a discussion of the various parameters that they identify, and how they add to scientific knowledge. We conclude that until we conduct more field experiments that build a bridge between the lab and the naturally-occurring settings of interest we cannot begin to make strong conclusions empirically on the crucial question of generalizability from the lab to the field.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 17957.

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Date of creation: Mar 2012
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17957

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Cited by:
  1. Egebark, Johan & Ekström, Mathias, 2013. "Can Indifference Make the World Greener?," Working Paper Series 975, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
  2. Slonim, Robert & Wang, Carmen & Garbarino, Ellen & Merrett, Danielle, 2013. "Opting-in: Participation bias in economic experiments," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 90(C), pages 43-70.
  3. Holmén, Martin & Kirchler, Michael & Kleinlercher, Daniel, 2012. "Do Option-like Incentives Induce Overvaluation? Evidence from Experimental Asset Markets," Working Papers in Economics 540, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics, revised 21 Nov 2012.
  4. Omar Al-Ubaydli & John A. List, 2013. "On the Generalizability of Experimental Results in Economics: With a Response to Commentors," CESifo Working Paper Series 4543, CESifo Group Munich.
  5. Slonim, Robert & Wang, Carmen & Garbarino, Ellen & Merrett, Danielle, 2012. "Opting-In: Participation Biases in the Lab," IZA Discussion Papers 6865, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  6. Judd Kessler, 2013. "When will there be Gift Exchange? Addressing the Lab-Field Debate with Laboratory Gift Exchange Experiments," CESifo Working Paper Series 4161, CESifo Group Munich.
  7. John List, 2013. "Using field experiments to change the template of how we teach economics," Artefactual Field Experiments 00389, The Field Experiments Website.

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