Eszter Czibor, David Jimenez-Gomez, John A List
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What was once broadly viewed as an impossibility - learning from experimental data in economics - has now become commonplace. Governmental bodies, think tanks, and corporations around the world employ teams of experimental researchers to answer their most pressing questions. For their part, in the past two decades academics have begun to more actively partner with organizations to generate data via field experimentation. While this revolution in evidence-based approaches has served to deepen the economic science, recently a credibility crisis has caused even the most ardent experimental proponents to pause. This study takes a step back from the burgeoning experimental literature and introduces 12 actions that might help to alleviate this credibility crisis and raise experimental economics to an even higher level. In this way, we view our "12 action wish list" as discussion points to enrich the field.
Greer K Gosnell, John A List, Robert D Metcalfe
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Increasing evidence indicates the importance of management in determining firms' productivity. Yet, causal evidence regarding the effectiveness of management practices is scarce, especially for high-skilled workers in the developed world. In an eight-month field experiment measuring the productivity of captains in the commercial aviation sector, we test four distinct management practices: (i) performance monitoring; (ii) performance feedback; (iii) target setting; and (iv) prosocial incentives. We find that these management practices -particularly performance monitoring and target setting- significantly increase captains' productivity with respect to the targeted fuel-saving dimensions. We identify positive spillovers of the tested management practices on job satisfaction and carbon dioxide emissions, and captains overwhelmingly express desire for deeper managerial engagement. Both the implementation and the results of the study reveal an uncharted opportunity for management researchers to delve into the black box of firms and rigorously examine the determinants of productivity amongst skilled labor.
Omar Al-Ubaydli, John A List
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This is a review of the literature of field experimental studies of markets. The main results covered by the review are as follows: (1) Generally speaking, markets organize the efficient exchange of commodities; (2) There are some behavioral anomalies that impede efficient exchange; (3) Many behavioral anomalies disappear when traders are experienced.
Omar Al-Ubaydli, John A List, Dana L Suskind
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Policymakers are increasingly turning to insights gained from the experimental method as a means of informing public policies. Whether-and to what extent-insights from a research study scale to the level of the broader public is, in many situations, based on blind faith. This scale-up problem can lead to a vast waste of resources, a missed opportunity to improve people's lives, and a diminution in the public's trust in the scientific method's ability to contribute to policymaking. This study provides a theoretical lens to deepen our understanding of the science of how to use science. Through a simple model, we highlight three elements of the scale-up problem: (1) when does evidence become actionable (appropriate statistical inference); (2) properties of the population; and (3) properties of the situation. We argue that until these three areas are fully understood and recognized by researchers and policymakers, the threats to scalability will render any scaling exercise as particularly vulnerable. In this way, our work represents a challenge to empiricists to estimate the nature and extent of how important the various threats to scalability are in practice, and to implement those in their original research.
John A List, Zacharias Maniadis, Fabio Tufano
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The sciences are in an era o fan alleged "credibility crisis'. In this study, we discuss the reproducibility of empirical results, focusing on economics research. By combining theory and empirical evidence, we discuss the import of replication studies, and whether they improve our confidence in novel findings. The theory sheds light on the importance of replications, even when replications are subject to bias. We then present a pilot meta-study of replication in experimental economics, a subfield serving as a positive benchmark for investigating the credibility of economics. Our meta-study highlights certain difficulties when applying meta-research (Ioannidis et al., 2015) and systematizing the economics literature.
John A List, Jeffrey A Livingston, Susanne Neckermann
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In the face of worryingly low performance on standardized test, offering students financial incentives linked to academic performance has been proposed as a potentially cost-effective way to support improvement. However, a large literature across disciplines finds that extrinsic incentives, once removed, may crowd out intrinsic motivation on subsequent, similar tasks. We conduct a field experiment where students, parents, and tutors are offered incentives designed to encourage student preparation for a high-stakes state test. The incentives reward performance on a separate low-stakes assessment designed to measure the same skills as the high-stakes test. Performance on the high-stakes test, however, is not incentivized. We find substantial treatment effects on the incented tests but no effect on the non-incented test; if anything, the incentives result in worse performance on the non-incented test. We also find evidence supporting the conclusion that the incentives crowd out intrinsic motivation to perform well on the non-incented test, but this effect is only temporary. One year later, students who had been in the incentives treatments perform better than those in the control on the same non-incented test.
Glenn W Harrison, John A List
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Experimental economists are leaving the reservation. They are recruiting subjects in the field rather than in the classroom, using field goods rather than induced valuations, and using field context rather than abstract terminology in instructions. We argue that there is something methodologically fundamental behind this trend. Field experiments differ from laboratory experiments in many ways. Although it is tempting to view field experiments as simply less controlled variants of laboratory experiments, we argue that to do so would be to seriously mischaracterize them. What passes for "control" in laboratory experiments might in fact be precisely the opposite if it is artificial to the subject or context of the task. We propose six factors that can be used to determine the field context of an experiment: the nature of the subject pool, the nature of the information that the subjects bring to the task, the nature of the commodity, the nature of the task or trading rules applied, the nature of the stakes, and the environment that subjects operate in.
Raghabendra Chattopadhyay, Esther Duflo
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This paper uses political reservations for women in India to study the impact of women's leadership on policy decisions. In 1998, one third of all leadership positions of Village Councils in West Bengal were randomly selected to be reserved for a woman: in these councils only women could be elected to the position of head. Village Councils are responsible for the provision on many local public good in rural areas. Using a data set we collected on 165 Village Councils, we compare the type of public goods provided in reserved and unreserved Villages Councils. We show that women invest more in infrastructure that is directly relevant to the needs of rural women (water, fuel, and roads), while men invest more in education. Women are more likely to participate in the policy-making process if the leader of their village council is a woman.
Esther Duflo, Emmanuel Saez
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This paper analyzes a randomized experiment to shed light on the role of information and social interactions in employees' decisions to enroll in a Tax Deferred Account (TDA) retirement plan within a large university. The experiment encouraged a random sample of employees in a subset of departments to attend a benefits information fair organized by the university, by promising a monetary reward for attendance. The experiment multiplied by more than five the attendance rate of these treated individuals (relative to controls), and tripled that of untreated individuals within departments where some individuals were treated. TDA enrollment five and eleven months after the fair was significantly higher in departments where some individuals were treated than in departments where nobody was treated. However, the effect on TDA enrollment is almost as large for individuals in treated departments who did not receive the encouragement as for those who did. We provide three interpretations-differential treatment effects, social network effects, and motivational reward effects-to account for these results.
Uri Gneezy, Aldo Rustichini
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No abstract available