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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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Publication status: published as Al-Ubaydli, Omar, and John A. List, On the generalizability of experimental results in economics, In Frechette, G. & Schotter, A., Methods of Modern Experimental Economics, Oxford University Press, 2013.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17957

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References

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  1. Bohm, Peter, 1972. "Estimating demand for public goods: An experiment," European Economic Review, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 3(2), pages 111-130.
  2. John List, 2011. "Why economists should conduct field experiments and 14 tips for pulling one off," Artefactual Field Experiments, The Field Experiments Website 00089, The Field Experiments Website.
  3. Vernon L. Smith, 1962. "An Experimental Study of Competitive Market Behavior," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 70, pages 322.
  4. John A. List, 2006. "The Behavioralist Meets the Market: Measuring Social Preferences and Reputation Effects in Actual Transactions," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 114(1), pages 1-37, February.
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  6. Glenn W. Harrison & John A. List, 2004. "Field Experiments," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 42(4), pages 1009-1055, December.
  7. Kenneth I. Wolpin & Mark R. Rosenzweig, 2000. "Natural "Natural Experiments" in Economics," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 38(4), pages 827-874, December.
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  9. Fehr, Ernst & Schmidt, Klaus M., 1998. "A Theory of Fairness, Competition and Cooperation," CEPR Discussion Papers, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers 1812, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  10. John A. List, 2011. "The Market for Charitable Giving," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 25(2), pages 157-80, Spring.
  11. Richard Blundell & Monica Costa Dias, 2009. "Alternative Approaches to Evaluation in Empirical Microeconomics," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 44(3).
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  13. Steven D. Levitt & John A. List, 2007. "What Do Laboratory Experiments Measuring Social Preferences Reveal About the Real World?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 21(2), pages 153-174, Spring.
  14. Muriel Niederle & Carmit Segal & Lise Vesterlund, 2013. "How Costly Is Diversity? Affirmative Action in Light of Gender Differences in Competitiveness," Management Science, INFORMS, INFORMS, vol. 59(1), pages 1-16, May.
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  20. James L. Heckman, 1999. "Causal Parameters and Policy Analysis in Economcs: A Twentieth Century Retrospective," NBER Working Papers 7333, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  21. Lise Vesterlund, 2008. "How Costly is Diversity? Affirmative Action in Light of Gender Differences in Competitiveness," Working Papers, University of Pittsburgh, Department of Economics 342, University of Pittsburgh, Department of Economics, revised Mar 2008.
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  24. Phelps, Edmund S, 1972. "The Statistical Theory of Racism and Sexism," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 62(4), pages 659-61, September.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Holmen, Martin & Kirchler, Michael & Kleinlercher, Daniel, 2014. "Do option-like incentives induce overvaluation? Evidence from experimental asset markets," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 179-194.
  2. Egebark, Johan & Ekström, Mathias, 2013. "Can Indifference Make the World Greener?," Research Papers in Economics, Stockholm University, Department of Economics 2013:12, Stockholm University, Department of Economics.
  3. 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.
  4. Adrian Beck & Rudolf Kerschbamer & Jianying Qiu & Matthias Sutter, 2014. "Car mechanics in the lab: investigating the behavior of real experts on experimental markets for credence goods," Economics Working Papers, European University Institute ECO2014/02, European University Institute.
  5. John List, 2013. "Using field experiments to change the template of how we teach economics," Artefactual Field Experiments, The Field Experiments Website 00389, The Field Experiments Website.
  6. Slonim, Robert & Wang, Carmen & Garbarino, Ellen & Merrett, Danielle, 2013. "Opting-in: Participation bias in economic experiments," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 90(C), pages 43-70.
  7. Omar Al-Ubaydli & John A. List, 2013. "On the Generalizability of Experimental Results in Economics: With A Response To Camerer," NBER Working Papers 19666, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. 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).
  9. 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.
  10. Rodney J. Andrews & Trevon D. Logan & Michael J. Sinkey, 2012. "Identifying Confirmatory Bias in the Field: Evidence from a Poll of Experts," NBER Working Papers 18064, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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