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On the Generalizability of Experimental Results in Economics: With a Response to Commentors

  • Omar Al-Ubaydli
  • John A. List

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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File URL: http://www.cesifo-group.de/portal/page/portal/DocBase_Content/WP/WP-CESifo_Working_Papers/wp-cesifo-2013/wp-cesifo-2013-12/cesifo1_wp4543.pdf
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Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 4543.

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Date of creation: 2013
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Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_4543
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  1. John List, 2008. "Introduction to field experiments in economics with applications to the economics of charity," Artefactual Field Experiments 00085, The Field Experiments Website.
  2. Ignacio Palacios-Huerta & Oscar Volij, 2006. "Experientia Docet: Professionals Play Minimax in Laboratory Experiments," NajEcon Working Paper Reviews 122247000000001050, www.najecon.org.
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  7. Hunter, John E, 2001. " The Desperate Need for Replications," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 28(1), pages 149-58, June.
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  9. John List & Mathis Wagner & Sally Sadoff, 2010. "So you want to run an experiment, now what? Some simple rules of thumb for optimal experimental design," Artefactual Field Experiments 00094, The Field Experiments Website.
  10. Charles Towe & Glenn Harrison & John List, 2004. "Naturally occurring preferences and exogenous laboratory experiments: A case study of risk aversion," Framed Field Experiments 00155, The Field Experiments Website.
  11. John A. List, 2009. "The Economics of Open Air Markets," NBER Working Papers 15420, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Blundell, Richard & Costa Dias, Monica, 2008. "Alternative Approaches to Evaluation in Empirical Microeconomics," IZA Discussion Papers 3800, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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  14. 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).
  15. Catherine Eckel & Philip Grossman, 2008. "Subsidizing charitable contributions: a natural field experiment comparing matching and rebate subsidies," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 11(3), pages 234-252, September.
  16. Stefano DellaVigna & John A. List & Ulrike Malmendier, 2012. "Testing for Altruism and Social Pressure in Charitable Giving," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 127(1), pages 1-56.
  17. Zacharias Maniadis & Fabio Tufano & John A List, 2013. "One Swallow Doesn't Make a Summer: New Evidence on Anchoring Effects," Discussion Papers 2013-07, The Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics, School of Economics, University of Nottingham.
  18. John A. List, 2011. "Why Economists Should Conduct Field Experiments and 14 Tips for Pulling One Off," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 25(3), pages 3-16, Summer.
  19. Card, David & Krueger, Alan B, 1994. "Minimum Wages and Employment: A Case Study of the Fast-Food Industry in New Jersey and Pennsylvania," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(4), pages 772-93, September.
  20. E. Fehr & John A. List, . "The Hidden Costs and Returns of Incentives - Trust and Trustworthiness among CEOs," IEW - Working Papers 134, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  21. Edward P. Lazear & Ulrike Malmendier & Roberto A. Weber, 2012. "Sorting in Experiments with Application to Social Preferences," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 4(1), pages 136-63, January.
  22. Gordon Dahl & Stefano DellaVigna, 2009. "Does Movie Violence Increase Violent Crime?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(2), pages 677-734.
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  24. Phelps, Edmund S, 1972. "The Statistical Theory of Racism and Sexism," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 62(4), pages 659-61, September.
  25. Falk, Armin & Heckman, James J., 2009. "Lab Experiments Are a Major Source of Knowledge in the Social Sciences," IZA Discussion Papers 4540, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  26. Fehr, Ernst & Schmidt, Klaus M., . "A theory of fairness, competition, and cooperation," Chapters in Economics, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  27. Nancy Cartwright, 1991. "Replicability, Reproducibility, and Robustness: Comments on Harry Collins," History of Political Economy, Duke University Press, vol. 23(1), pages 143-155, Spring.
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  29. Daniel Rondeau & John A. List, 2008. "Matching and Challenge Gifts to Charity:Evidence from Laboratory and Natural Field Experiments," NBER Working Papers 13728, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  30. John A. List, 2003. "Does Market Experience Eliminate Market Anomalies?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(1), pages 41-71.
  31. Oriana Bandiera & Iwan Barankay & Imran Rasul, 2005. "Social Preferences and the Response to Incentives: Evidence from Personnel Data," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 120(3), pages 917-962.
  32. Bohm, Peter, 1972. "Estimating demand for public goods: An experiment," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 3(2), pages 111-130.
  33. Alpizar, Francisco & Carlsson, Fredrik & Johansson-Stenman, Olof, 2008. "Full title Does Context Matter More for Hypothetical Than for Actual Contributions? Evidence from a Natural Field Experiment," Discussion Papers dp-08-02-efd, Resources For the Future.
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  35. Eckel, Catherine C. & Grossman, Philip J., 1996. "Altruism in Anonymous Dictator Games," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 16(2), pages 181-191, October.
  36. Smith, Vernon L & Walker, James M, 1993. "Monetary Rewards and Decision Cost in Experimental Economics," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 31(2), pages 245-61, April.
  37. Omar Al-Ubaydli & John A. List, 2012. "On the Generalizability of Experimental Results in Economics," NBER Working Papers 17957, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  38. John A. List, 2005. "The Behavioralist Meets the Market: Measuring Social Preferences and Reputation Effects in Actual Transactions," NBER Working Papers 11616, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  40. Georg Kirchsteiger & Ernst Fehr & Arno Riedl, 1993. "Does Fairness Prevent Market Clearing? An Experimental Investigation," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/5927, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  41. John A. List, 2011. "The Market for Charitable Giving," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 25(2), pages 157-80, Spring.
  42. 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.
  43. Steven D. Levitt & John A. List, 2007. "Viewpoint: On the generalizability of lab behaviour to the field," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 40(2), pages 347-370, May.
  44. John List & Steven Levitt, 2008. "Homo economicus evolves," Artefactual Field Experiments 00095, The Field Experiments Website.
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  48. Uri Gneezy & John A. List, 2006. "Putting Behavioral Economics to Work: Testing for Gift Exchange in Labor Markets Using Field Experiments," NBER Working Papers 12063, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  49. John A. List, 2007. "Field Experiments: A Bridge Between Lab and Naturally-Occurring Data," NBER Working Papers 12992, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  50. Hossain Tanjim & Morgan John, 2006. "...Plus Shipping and Handling: Revenue (Non) Equivalence in Field Experiments on eBay," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 5(2), pages 1-30, January.
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