The Lab and the Field: Empirical and Experimental Economics

In this paper, I present my perspective on the interaction between experimental and empirical economics. This is a written version of remarks originally made at a conference on experimental-economics methodology at New York University, where I was asked to discuss two papers, one by John Kagel, and the other by Glenn Harrison, Morten Lau, and Elisabeth Rutstrom. I stress the complementarity between laboratory and field experiments, noting that laboratory experiments give us much more ability to observe and control variables of interest, while field experiments force us to think about how well economic theories approximate the outside world. I consider the important role of context in experiments, discuss examples of ways that laboratory and field experiments have combined to deepen our understanding of the world, and discuss my perspective on the appropriate definition of the term "field experiment."


This version: October 2009

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