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Risk attitudes, randomization to treatment, and self-selection into experiments

  • Harrison, Glenn W.
  • Lau, Morten I.
  • Elisabet Rutström, E.

Randomization to treatment is fundamental to statistical control in the design of experiments. However randomization implies some uncertainty about treatment condition, and individuals differ in their preferences towards taking on risk. Since human subjects often volunteer for experiments or are allowed to drop out of the experiment at any time if they want to, it is possible that the sample observed in an experiment might be biased because of the risk of randomization. On the other hand, the widespread use of a guaranteed show-up fee that is non-stochastic may generate sample selection biases of the opposite direction, encouraging more risk averse samples into experiments. We directly test these hypotheses that risk attitudes play a role in sample selection. Our results suggest that randomization bias does affect the overall level of risk aversion in the sample we observe, but that it does not affect the demographic mix of risk attitudes in the sample. We show that the common use of non-stochastic show-up fees can generate samples that are more risk averse than would otherwise have been observed.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization.

Volume (Year): 70 (2009)
Issue (Month): 3 (June)
Pages: 498-507

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Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:70:y:2009:i:3:p:498-507
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  1. Glenn W. Harrison & John A. List, 2004. "Field Experiments," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 42(4), pages 1009-1055, December.
  2. Elisabet Rutstrom & Glenn Harrison & Melonie Williams & Morten Lau, 2005. "Eliciting risk and time preferences using field experiments: Some methodological issues," Artefactual Field Experiments 00063, The Field Experiments Website.
  3. Glenn W. Harrison & Morten I. Lau & Melonie B. Williams, 2001. "Estimating Individual Discount Rates in Denmark: A Field Experiment," NCEE Working Paper Series 200102, National Center for Environmental Economics, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, revised Nov 2001.
  4. Mitali Das & Whitney K. Newey & Francis Vella, 2003. "Nonparametric Estimation of Sample Selection Models," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 70(1), pages 33-58.
  5. Francis Vella, 1998. "Estimating Models with Sample Selection Bias: A Survey," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 33(1), pages 127-169.
  6. Elisabet Rutstrom & Glenn Harrison & Morten Lau, 2004. "Estimating risk attitudes in denmark: A field experiment," Artefactual Field Experiments 00059, The Field Experiments Website.
  7. James J. Heckman & Jeffrey A. Smith, 1995. "Assessing the Case for Social Experiments," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(2), pages 85-110, Spring.
  8. Palfrey, Thomas R. & Pevnitskaya, Svetlana, 2003. "Endogenous Entry and Self-selection in Private Value Auctions: An Experimental Study," Working Papers 1172, California Institute of Technology, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences.
  9. Steffen Andersen & Glenn W. Harrison & Morten I. Lau & E. Elisabet Rutström, 2008. "Lost In State Space: Are Preferences Stable?," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 49(3), pages 1091-1112, 08.
  10. Heckman, James, 2013. "Sample selection bias as a specification error," Applied Econometrics, Publishing House "SINERGIA PRESS", vol. 31(3), pages 129-137.
  11. Dan Lovallo & Colin Camerer, 1999. "Overconfidence and Excess Entry: An Experimental Approach," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(1), pages 306-318, March.
  12. Glenn W. Harrison & Eric Johnson & Melayne M. McInnes & E. Elisabet Rutström, 2005. "Temporal stability of estimates of risk aversion," Applied Financial Economics Letters, Taylor and Francis Journals, vol. 1(1), pages 31-35, January.
  13. James J. Heckman, 1976. "The Common Structure of Statistical Models of Truncation, Sample Selection and Limited Dependent Variables and a Simple Estimator for Such Models," NBER Chapters, in: Annals of Economic and Social Measurement, Volume 5, number 4, pages 475-492 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Heckman, James J. & Robb, Richard Jr., 1985. "Alternative methods for evaluating the impact of interventions : An overview," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 30(1-2), pages 239-267.
  15. Steffen Andersen & Glenn W. Harrison & Morten I. Lau & E. Elisabet Rutström, 2008. "Eliciting Risk and Time Preferences," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 76(3), pages 583-618, 05.
  16. Charles A. Holt & Susan K. Laury, 2002. "Risk Aversion and Incentive Effects," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(5), pages 1644-1655, December.
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