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On the Generalizability of Experimental Results in Economics

  • 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.nber.org/papers/w17957.pdf
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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
Note: PE
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  1. Ernst Fehr & Klaus M. Schmidt, . "A Theory of Fairness, Competition and Cooperation," IEW - Working Papers 004, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  2. 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.
  3. Glenn W. Harrison & John A. List, 2004. "Field Experiments," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 42(4), pages 1009-1055, December.
  4. Richard Blundell & Monica Costa Dias, 2009. "Alternative Approaches to Evaluation in Empirical Microeconomics," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 44(3).
  5. Vernon L. Smith, 1962. "An Experimental Study of Competitive Market Behavior," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 70, pages 111.
  6. John List & Steven Levitt, 2009. "Field experiments in economics: The past, the present, and the future," Artefactual Field Experiments 00079, The Field Experiments Website.
  7. James J. Heckman, 2000. "Causal Parameters And Policy Analysis In Economics: A Twentieth Century Retrospective," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 115(1), pages 45-97, February.
  8. David Card & Alan Krueger, 1993. "Minimum Wages and Employment: A Case Study of the Fast Food Industry in New Jersey and Pennsylvania," Working Papers 694, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  9. Muriel Niederle & Carmit Segal & Lise Vesterlund, 2008. "How Costly is Diversity? Affirmative Action in Light of Gender Differences in Competitiveness," NBER Working Papers 13923, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Armin Falk & James J. Heckman, 2009. "Lab Experiments are a Major Source of Knowledge in the Social Sciences," Working Papers 200935, Geary Institute, University College Dublin.
  11. John A. List, 2003. "Neoclassical Theory Versus Prospect Theory: Evidence from the Marketplace," NBER Working Papers 9736, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Peter Bohm, 1972. "Estimating the demand for public goods: An experiment," Framed Field Experiments 00126, The Field Experiments Website.
  13. repec:feb:natura:0053 is not listed on IDEAS
  14. John List, 2003. "Does market experience eliminate market anomalies?," Natural Field Experiments 00297, The Field Experiments Website.
  15. 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.
  16. 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, vol. 21(2), pages 153-174, Spring.
  17. repec:feb:artefa:0110 is not listed on IDEAS
  18. Kahneman, Daniel & Knetsch, Jack L & Thaler, Richard, 1986. "Fairness as a Constraint on Profit Seeking: Entitlements in the Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(4), pages 728-41, September.
  19. John List, 2006. "The behavioralist meets the market: Measuring social preferences and reputation effects in actual transactions," Natural Field Experiments 00300, The Field Experiments Website.
  20. Bohm, Peter, 1972. "Estimating demand for public goods: An experiment," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 3(2), pages 111-130.
  21. Phelps, Edmund S, 1972. "The Statistical Theory of Racism and Sexism," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 62(4), pages 659-61, September.
  22. John A. List, 2011. "The Market for Charitable Giving," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 25(2), pages 157-80, Spring.
  23. repec:feb:artefa:0087 is not listed on IDEAS
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