John List

Kenneth C. Griffin Distinguished Service Professor of Economics

Show Research Statement


I present here eight main lines of research that I've conducted. Each speaks to a slightly different audience. A brief description of field experiment schemes follows. I invite you to read through many of the papers linked to on this site.

Charitable Giving

Charitable giving is an increasingly important component of our national economy comprising over 2% of GDP in 2008. However, relatively little is known about what drives people to give to charities. This line of research includes large scale field experiments to investigate charitable giving.

For Policy Makers

Economics can provide interesting insights into problems that policy makers often try to tackle like education and discrimination. Some of my current research includes investigating incentive schemes on educational outcomes through the Griffin grant. Over the next several years, I'll be working with Steve Levitt and Roland Fryer to investigate early childhood interventions in a metrics based environment at the newly established Griffin Early Childhood Center in Chicago Heights, Illinois. Also be sure to look at the research in the new Freakonomics movie. read more

Testing Economic Theory

Economics has volumes of work on theory. I try to test economic theory using data from the lab and the field. These tests of economic theory provide a richer understanding for our conceptualization of basic economic principles.

Students and Academics

As a student at the University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point and the University of Wyoming, I learned about the importance of advice and wisdom about what major to focus on, and how to approach the selection of graduate programs and first jobs. I have therefore attempted to maintain an active research program in this area.

Methodological Papers

Methodology is viewed by some to have the same type of draw as calisthenics. Yet, it must be done! In this section resides some of my work in this area.

I have spent time thinking about whether laboratory behavior is a good indicator of behavior in the field, and whether, and to what extent, markets and/or market experience affect the size and extent of behavioral anomalies observed in lab experiments. In some cases, the increase in knowledge due to field experiments has overturned verdicts of yesterday. In others, the findings have reinforced the literature that has drawn inference from either lab or naturally-occurring data.

Literature Reviews

Summaries of work hold, in part, because they provide other scholars with sign posts on where a literature is. In this section I post some of my work that summarizes literatures.


Until recently, scholars had not made use of field experiments to explore issues in finance. Some of my work fills that void.

Non-market Valuation

Benefit-cost analysis remains the main decision tool for policy makers around the globe. Work here focuses on improving - both theoretically and empirically - that approach. These advances, in turn, instruct policy makers on how to more accurately value ecosystem damages, such as the Exxon Valdez oil spill or BP's oil leak.