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

43 Pages Posted: 14 Jan 2014

See all articles by Omar Al-Ubaydli

Omar Al-Ubaydli

George Mason University - Department of Economics; Derasat; George Mason University - Mercatus Center

John A. List

University of Chicago - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Date Written: December 30, 2013

Abstract

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.

Keywords: lab and field experiments, generalizability

JEL Classification: C900, C910, C930

Suggested Citation

Al-Ubaydli, Omar and List, John A., On the Generalizability of Experimental Results in Economics: With a Response to Commentors (December 30, 2013). CESifo Working Paper Series No. 4543, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2378295

Omar Al-Ubaydli

George Mason University - Department of Economics ( email )

4400 University Drive
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703-993-1133 (Fax)

Derasat ( email )

Bahrain

George Mason University - Mercatus Center ( email )

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Arlington, VA 22201
United States

John A. List (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Department of Economics ( email )

1126 East 59th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

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Bonn, D-53072
Germany

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