Basil Halperin, Benjamin Ho, John A List, Ian Muir
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We use a theory of apologies to analyze a nationwide field experiment involving 1.5 million Uber ridesharing consumers who experienced late rides. Several insights emerge. First, apologies are not a panacea: the efficacy of an apology and whether it may backfire depend on how the apology is made. Second, across treatments, money speaks louder than words - the best form of apology is to include a coupon for a future trip. Third, in some cases sending an apology is worse than sending nothing at all, particularly for repeated apologies. For firms, caveat venditor should be the rule when considering apologies.
Andreas Leibbrandt, John A List
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Labor force composition and the allocation of talent remain of vital import to modern economies. For their part, governments and companies around the globe have implemented equal employment opportunity (EEO) regulations to influence labor market flows. Even though such regulations are pervasive, surprisingly little is known about their impacts. We use a natural field experiment conducted across 10 U.S. cities to investigate if EEO statements in job advertisements affect the first step in the employment process, application rates. Making use of data from nearly 2,500 job seekers, we find considerable policy effects, but in an unexpected direction: the presence of an EEO statement dampens rather than encourages racial minorities willingness to apply for jobs. Importantly, the effects are particularly pronounced for educated job seekers and in cities with white majority populations. Complementary survey evidence suggests the underlying mechanism at work is "tokenism", revealing that EEO statements backfire because racial minorities avoid environments in which they are perceived as regulatory, or symbolic, hires rather than being hired on their own merits. Beyond their practical and theoretical importance, our results highlight how field experiments can significantly improve policy making. In this case, if one goal of EEO regulations is to enhance the pool of minority applicants, then it is not working.
Alec Brandon, John A List, Robert D Metcalfe, Michael K Price, Florian Rundhammer
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This study considers the response of household electricity consumption to social nudges during peak load events. Our investigation considers two social nudges. The first targets conservation during peak load events, while the second promotes aggregate conservation. Using data from a natural field experiment with 42,100 households, we find that both social nudges reduce peak load electricity consumption by 2 to 4% when implemented in isolation and by nearly 7% when implemented in combination. These findings suggest an important role for social nudges in the regulation of electricity markets and a limited role for crowd out effects.
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.
Damon Clark, David Gill, Victoria Prowse , Mark Rush
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Will college students who set goals for themselves work harder and achieve better outcomes? In theory, setting goals can help present-biased students to mitigate their self-control problem. In practice, there is little credible evidence on the causal effects on goal setting for college students. We report the result of two field experiments that involved almost four thousand college students in total. One experiments asked treated students to set goals for performance in the course; the other asked treated students to set goals for a particular task (completing online practice exams). Task-based goals had robust positive effects on the level of task completion, and task-based goals also increased course performance. We also find that performance-based goals had positive but small effects on course performance. We use a theoretical framework that builds on present bias and loss aversion to interpret our results. Since task-based goal setting is low-cost, scalable and logistically simple, we conclude that our findings have important implications for educational practice and future research.
Rudolf Kerschbamer, Daniel Neururer, Matthias Sutter
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Honesty is a fundamental pillar for cooperation in human societies and thus for their economic welfare. However, humans do not always act in an honest way. Here, we examine how insurance coverage affects the degree of honesty in credence good markets. Such markets are plagued by strong incentives for fraudulent behavior of sellers, resulting in estimated annual costs of billions of dollars to costumers and the society as a whole. Prime examples of credence goods are all kinds of repair services, the provision of medical treatments, the sale of software programs, and the provision of taxi rides in unfamiliar cities. We examine in a natural field experiment how computer repair shops take advantage of costumers' insurance for repair costs. In a control treatment, the average repair price is about EUR 70, whereas the repair bill increases by more than 80% when the service provider is informed that an insurance would reimburse the bill. Our design allows decomposing the sources of this economically impressive difference, showing that it is mainly due to the overprovision of parts and overcharging of working time. A survey among repair shops shows that the higher bills are mainly ascribed to insured costumers being less likely to be concerned about minimizing costs because a third party (the insurer) pays the bill. Overall, our results strongly suggest that insurance coverage greatly increases the extent of dishonesty in important sectors of the economy with potentially huge costs to costumers and whole economies.
Omar Al-Ubaydli, John A List
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Natural field experiments investigating key labour market phenomena such as unemployment have only been used since the early 2000s. This paper reviews the literature and draws three primary conclusions that deepen our understanding of unemployment. First, the inability to monitor workers perfectly in many occupations complicates the hiring decision in a way that contributes to unemployment. Second, the inability to determine a worker's attributes precisely at the time of hiring leads to discrimination on the basis of factors such as race, gender, age and ethnicity. This can lead to systematically high and persistent levels of unemployment for groups that face discrimination. Third, the importance of social and personal dynamics in the workplace can lead to short-term unemployment. Much of the knowledge necessary for these conclusions could only be obtained using natural field experiments due to their ability to combine randomized control with an absence of experimenter demand effects.
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.
Shlomo Benartzi, Richard H Thaler
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As firms switch from defined-benefit plans to defined-contribution plans, employees bear more responsibility for making decisions about how much to save. The employees who fail to join the plan or who participate at a very low level appear to be saving at less than the predicted life cycle savings rates. Behavioral explanations for this behavior stress bounded rationality and self-control and suggest that at least some of the low-saving households are making a mistake and would welcome aid in making decisions about their saving. In this paper, we propose such a prescriptive savings program, called Save More Tomorrow (hereafter, the SMarT program). The essence of the program is straightforward: people commit in advance to allocating a portion of their future salary increases toward retirement savings. We report evidence on the first three implementations of the SMarT program. Our key findings, from the first implementation, which has been in place for four annual raises, are as follows: (1) a high proportion (78 percent) of those offered the plan joined, (2) the vast majority of those enrolled in the SMarT plan (80 percent) remained in it through the fourth pay raise, and (3) the average saving rates for SMarT program participants increased from 3.5 percent to 13.6 percent over the course of 40 months. The results suggest that behavioral economics can be used to design effective prescriptive programs for important economic decisions.
Uri Gneezy, Aldo Rustichini
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The deterrence hypothesis predicts that the introduction of a penalty that leaves everything else unchanged will reduce the occurrence of the behavior subject to the fine. We present the result of a field study in a group of day-care centers that contradicts this prediction. Parents used to arrive late to collect their children, forcing a teacher to stay after closing time. We introduced a monetary fine for late-coming parents. As a result, the number of late-coming parents increased significantly. After the fine was removed no reduction occurred. We argue that penalties are usually introduced into an incomplete contract, social or private. They may change the information that agents have, and therefore the effect on behavior may be opposite of that expected. If this is true, the deterrence hypothesis loses its predictive strength, since the clause "everything else is left unchanged" might be hard to satisfy.