John List

John List
University of Chicago | UC · Department of Economics

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371
Publications
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Publications

Publications (371)
Article
The first measurement of lepton-jet momentum imbalance and azimuthal correlation in lepton-proton scattering at high momentum transfer is presented. These data, taken with the H1 detector at HERA, are corrected for detector effects using an unbinned machine learning algorithm (multifold), which considers eight observables simultaneously in this fir...
Article
We design three field experiments to estimate how workers' social preferences toward their employer motivates their work effort. We vary the pay rates offered to workers, the return to the employer, and employer generosity demonstrated via unexpected gifts. Workers exert effort even without private incentives, but their effort is insensitive to the...
Article
The goal of creating evidence-based programs is to scale them at sufficient breadth to support population-level improvements in critical outcomes. However, this promise is challenging to fulfill. One of the biggest issues for the field is the reduction in effect sizes seen when a program is taken to scale. This paper discusses an economic perspecti...
Article
Policymakers are increasingly facing the challenge of scaling empirical insights. This study provides a theoretical lens into 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; (2) properties of the population; and (3) properties of the situation....
Article
Policymakers are increasingly turning to insights gained from the experimental method as a means to inform large-scale public policies. Critics view this increased usage as premature, pointing to the fact that many experimentally tested programs fail to deliver their promise at scale. Under this view, the experimental approach drives too much publi...
Article
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...
Article
Increasing evidence indicates the importance of management in determining firms’ productivity. Yet causal evidence regarding the effectiveness of management practices is scarce, especially for skilled labor in the developed world. In a field experiment measuring commercial airline captains’ productivity, we test four distinct management practices:...
Article
We conduct experiments eliciting risk preferences with over 1,400 children and adolescents aged 3–15 years old. We complement our data with an assessment of cognitive and executive function skills. First, we find that adolescent girls display significantly greater risk aversion than adolescent boys. This pattern is not observed among young children...
Article
Full-text available
We make use of data from a Facebook application where hundreds of thousands of people played a simultaneous move, zero-sum game—rock-paper-scissors—with varying information to analyze whether play in strategic settings is consistent with extant theories. We report three main insights. First, we observe that most people employ strategies consistent...
Article
The analysis of data from experiments in economics routinely involves testing multiple null hypotheses simultaneously. These different null hypotheses arise naturally in this setting for at least three different reasons: when there are multiple outcomes of interest and it is desired to determine on which of these outcomes a treatment has an effect;...
Article
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...
Book
Présentation de l'éditeur Ce manuel, écrit par des experts de la discipline, aborde l'économie dans une perspective pratique et engageante. L'adaptation française propose ici une version condensée de l'ouvrage original, centrée sur le programme des deux premières années de licence, tout en préservant la démarche originale des auteurs. Il permet à...
Article
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...
Article
Financial incentives linked to academic performance have 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 t...
Article
Research on competitiveness at the individual level has emphasized sex as a physiological determinant, focusing on the gap in preference for competitive environments between men and women. This study presents evidence that women's preferences over competition change with age such that the gender gap, while large for young adults, disappears in olde...
Article
Using a natural field experiment, we quantify the impact of one-dimensional performance-based incentives on incentivized (quantity) and non-incentivized (quality) dimensions of output for factory workers with a flat-rate or piece-rate base salary. In particular, we observe output quality by hiring quality-inspectors unbeknownst to the workers. We f...
Article
Behavioral economics and field experiments within the social sciences have advanced well beyond academic curiosum. Governments around the globe as well as the most powerful firms in modern economies employ staffs of behavioralists and experimentalists to advance and test best practices. In this study, we combine behavioral economics with field expe...
Article
We use a field experiment in Sierra Leone to examine how the identity of the manager influences rent seeking and performance in participatory development projects. Specifically,we vary the composition of a committee responsible for implementing a development project-local elites or randomly selected villagers. The design is unique in that it permit...
Article
We study how culture and social structure influence bargaining behavior across gender, by exploring the negotiation culture in matrilineal and patriarchal societies using data from a laboratory experiment and a natural field experiment. One interesting result is that in both the actual marketplace and in the laboratory bargaining game, women in the...
Article
Economists often conduct experiments that demonstrate the benefits to individuals of modifying their behavior, such as using a new production process at work or investing in energy saving technologies. A common occurrence is for the success of the intervention in these small-scale studies to diminish substantially when applied at a larger scale, se...
Article
Time preferences have been correlated with a range of life outcomes, yet little is known about their early development. We conduct a field experiment to elicit time preferences of nearly 1,000 children ages 3-12, who make several inter temporal decisions. To shed light on how such primitives form, we explore various channels that might affect time...
Article
Full-text available
We propose to change the default P-value threshold for statistical significance for claims of new discoveries from 0.05 to 0.005.
Article
An active area of research within the social sciences concerns the underlying motivation for sharing scarce resources and engaging in other pro-social actions. In this paper we ask: do parents model social preference behavior to children, and do children emulate this behavior? We develop a theoretical framework to examine this question, and conduct...
Article
Social scientists for years have documented the pervasiveness of discrimination in product and labor markets. While the literature has recently attempted to measure the nature of such discrimination, much less work has been done exploring the origins of discrimination. We make a modest step in this direction by reporting data from a field experimen...
Article
Policymakers often consider interventions at the scale of the population, or some other large scale. One of the sources of information about the potential effects of such interventions is experimental studies conducted at a significantly smaller scale. A common occurrence is for the treatment effects detected in these small-scale studies to diminis...
Article
Full-text available
When large-scale accidents cause catastrophic damage to natural or cultural resources, government and industry are faced with the challenge of assessing the extent of damages and the magnitude of restoration that is warranted. Although market transactions for privately owned assets provide information about how valuable they are to the people invol...
Article
The sciences are in an era of an 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 importan...
Article
This paper presents results from two large-scale natural field experiments that tested the effect of social norm messages on tax compliance. Using administrative data from > 200,000 individuals in the United Kingdom, we show that including social norm messages in standard reminder letters increases payment rates for overdue tax. This result offers...
Article
Why do people vote? We design a field experiment to estimate a model of voting “because others will ask”. The expectation of being asked motivates turnout if individuals derive pride from telling others that they voted, or feel shame from admitting that they did not vote, provided that lying is costly. In a door-to-door survey about election turnou...
Chapter
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 experienc...
Article
We explore the power of behavioral economics to influence the level of effort exerted by students in a low stakes testing environment. We find a substantial impact on test scores from incentives when the rewards are delivered immediately. There is suggestive evidence that rewards framed as losses outperform those framed as gains. Nonfinancial incen...
Article
The experimental literature has shown the tendency for experimental trading markets to converge to neoclassical predictions. Yet, the extent to which theory explains the equilibrating forces in markets remains under-researched, especially in the developing world. We set up a laboratory in 94 villages in rural Sierra Leone to mimic a real market. We...
Article
Field experiments provide a useful way to address a number of important issues in environmental and resource economics. This article provides a review of studies that have used field experiments to inform (1) benefit–cost analysis and (2) efforts to promote resource conservation. In these areas, scholars have used field experiments to test existing...
Article
Full-text available
People often demand a greater price when selling goods that they own than they would pay to purchase the same goods-a well-known economic bias called the endowment effect. The endowment effect has been found to be muted among experienced traders, but little is known about how trading experience reduces the endowment effect. We show that when sellin...
Article
This study investigates the test-retest reliability of a battery of executive function (EF) tasks with a specific interest in testing whether the method that is used to create a battery-wide score would result in differences in the apparent test-retest reliability of children's performance. A total of 188 4-year-olds completed a battery of computer...
Article
Full-text available
We report on a natural field experiment on quantity discounts involving more than 14 million consumers. Implementing price reductions ranging from 9-70% for large purchases, we found remarkably little impact on revenue, either positively or negatively. There was virtually no increase in the quantity of customers making a purchase; all the observed...
Article
In strategic settings a player may be able to influence the behavior of an opponent by revealing information about their own characteristics. They may for example aim to exploit stereotypes held by others. We provide an experimental test of this. A substantial fraction of players in a trust game exhibit a positive willingness to pay to reveal a pho...
Article
Recent theoretical and empirical studies have explored the effect of group membership and identity on individual decision-making. This line of research highlights that economic models focusing on the individual as the sole entity in the decision-making environment potentially miss critical features. This study takes this literature in a new directi...
Article
The gold standard in the sciences is uncovering causal relationships. A growing literature in economics utilizes field experiments as a methodology to establish causality between variables. Taking lessons from the economics literature, this study provides an “A-to-Z” description of how to conduct field experiments in accounting and finance. We begi...
Article
We use a field experiment in Sierra Leone to examine how the identity of the manager influences rent seeking and performance in participatory development projects. Specifically, we vary the composition of a committee responsible for implementing a development project—local elites or randomly selected villagers. The design is unique, in that it perm...
Article
Since 1955, The Journal of Irreproducible Results has offered a satirical view on academic research, publishing pieces such as, “A double blind efficacy trial of placebos, extra strength placebos, and generic placebos” (1). Scientists are now taking a less satirical look at the reproducibility of results, with questions emerging about the robustnes...
Article
Acts of dishonesty permeate life. Understanding their origins, and what mechanisms help to attenuate such acts is an underexplored area of research. This study takes an economics approach to explore the propensity of individuals to act dishonestly across different contexts. We conduct an experiment that includes both parents and their young childre...
Chapter
Efforts in the spirit of this special issue aim at improving the reproducibility of experimental economics, in response to the recent discussions regarding the “research reproducibility crisis.” We put this endeavour in perspective by summarizing the main ways (to our knowledge) that have been proposed – by researchers from several disciplines – to...
Article
Almost a third of US children ages two to nineteen are deemed overweight or obese, and part of the problem is the habitual decision to consume high-calorie, low-nutrient foods. We propose that the school lunchroom provides a “teachable moment” to engage children in making healthful choices. We conduct a field experiment with over 1,500 participants...
Article
A vibrant literature has emerged that explores the economic implications of the sex ratio (the ratio of men to women in the population), including changes in fertility rates, educational outcomes, labor supply, and household purchases. Previous empirical efforts, however, have paid less attention to the underlying channel via which changes in the s...
Article
A commonly held view is that laboratory experiments provide researchers with more "control" than natural field experiments. This paper explores how natural field experiments can provide researchers with more control than laboratory experiments. While laboratory experiments provide researchers with a high degree of control in the environment which p...
Article
Behavioral economics has become an important and integrated component of modern economics. Behavioral economists embrace the core principles of economics—optimization and equilibrium—and seek to develop and extend those ideas to make them more empirically accurate. Behavioral models assume that economic actors try to pick the best feasible option a...
Article
Field experiments represent a relatively new area in economics to understand the causal links from one variable to another. They have been used by academics to help answer interesting and policy-relevant questions in the developed world relating to educational attainment, tax avoidance, consumer finance, negative externalities, charitable giving, a...
Article
Exploiting findings that losses loom larger than gains, studies have shown that framing manipulations can increase productivity of workers. Using a natural field experiment that exogenously manipulates wage bonuses within contests in a Chinese high-tech manufacturing facility, we show that how loss aversion affects worker behavior critically depend...
Article
Young children have long been known to act selfishly and gradually appear to become more generous across middle childhood. While this apparent change has been well documented , the underlying mechanisms supporting this remain unclear. The current study examined the role of early theory of mind and executive functioning in facilitating sharing in a...
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Full-text available
This paper extends the literature on individual versus group decision-making by combining a strategic inter-group game with an intra-group voting mechanism. The inter-group game is a simple Prisoners' Dilemma, while we consider two versions of an intra-group voting mechanism—a form of representative democracy and a majority vote. Our results sugges...
Article
An active area of research within the social sciences concerns the underlying motivation for sharing scarce resources and engaging in other pro-social actions. We develop a theoretical framework that sheds light on the developmental origins of social preferences by providing mechanisms through which parents transmit preferences for generosity to th...
Article
We leverage behavioral economics to explore new approaches to tackling child food choice and consumption. Using a field experiment with >1,500 children, we report several key insights. We find that incentives have large influences: in the control, 17% of children prefer the healthy snack, whereas introduction of small incentives increases take-up o...
Article
The functioning and well-being of any society and organization critically hinges on norms of cooperation that regulate social activities. Empirical evidence on how such norms emerge and in which environments they thrive remains a clear void in the literature. To provide an initial set of insights, we overlay a set of field experiments in a natural...
Article
People respond to those who ask. Within the charitable fundraising community, the power of the ask represents the backbone of most fundraising strategies. Despite this, the optimal design of communication strategies has received less formal attention. For their part, economists have recently explored how communication affects empathy, altruism, and...
Article
A hallmark result within behavioral economics is that individuals' choices are affected by current endowments. A recent theory due to Kőszegi and Rabin (, Quarterly Journal of Economics, 121, 1133–1165) explains such endowment effect with a model of expectations-based reference-dependent preferences. Departing from past work, we conduct complementa...
Article
Full-text available
Internet-based educational resources are proliferating rapidly. One concern associated with these (potentially transformative) technological changes is that they will be disequalizing--as many technologies of the last several decades have been--creating superstar teachers and a winner-take-all education system. These important concerns notwithstand...
Article
In this article, the author explains why field experiments can improve what we teach and how we teach economics. Economists no longer operate as passive observers of economic phenomena. Instead, they participate actively in the research process by collecting data from field experiments to investigate the economics of everyday life. This change can...
Article
Full-text available
Researchers, using contingent valuation (CV) to value changes in nonmarket goods, typically believe respondents always answer questions truthfully or they answer truthfully only when it is in their interest to do so. The second position, while consistent with economic theory, implies that interpreting survey responses depends critically on the ince...
Article
Some researchers have argued that anchoring in economic valuations casts doubt on the assumption of consistent and stable preferences. We present new evidence that explores the strength of certain anchoring results. We then present a theoretical framework that provides insights into why we should be cautious of initial empirical findings in general...
Article
In his comment, Mitesh Kataria (2014) makes three main points about a specific part of our paper (Maniadis, Tufano, and List 2014), namely about Tables 2 and 3. In our paper, we employ these tables in order to illustrate the idea that very inconclusive post-study probabilities that a tested phenomenon is true may result from novel, surprising findi...
Article
Some researchers have argued that anchoring in economic valuations casts doubt on the assumption of consistent and stable preferences. We present new evidence that questions the robustness of certain anchoring results. We then present a theoretical framework that provides insights into why we should be cautious of initial empirical findings in gene...
Article
Full-text available
Competitiveness pervades life: plants compete for sunlight and water, animals for territory and food, and humans for mates and income. Herein we investigate human competitiveness with a natural experiment and a set of behavioral experiments. We compare competitiveness in traditional fishing societies where local natural forces determine whether fis...
Article
An active area of research within economics concerns the underpinnings of why people give to charitable causes. This study takes a new approach to this question by exploring motivations for giving among children aged 3–5. Using data gathered from 122 children, our artefactual field experiment naturally permits us to disentangle pure altruism and wa...
Book
Until not much more than 20 years ago, economists frequently lamented the fact that they were limited in their empirical analyses to statistical assessments of market behavior, because controlled economic experiments were (thought to be) infeasible, unethical, or both. Much has changed in the intervening years! In this new volume, John List, Michae...
Article
Do men and women have different social preferences? Previous findings are contradictory. We provide a potential explanation using evidence from a field experiment. In a door-to-door solicitation, men and women are equally generous, but women become less generous when it becomes easy to avoid the solicitor. Our structural estimates of the social pre...