Archives for john list



Charity and the Beauty Effect

John List and Uri Gneezy have appeared on our blog many times. This guest post is part a series adapted from their new  book The Why Axis: Hidden Motives and the Undiscovered Economics of Everyday Life. List appeared in our recent podcast “How to Raise Money Without Killing a Kitten; the post below offers a fuller description of an experiment discussed in that podcast.

On a chilly Saturday afternoon in December, 2005, Jeanne, a bright, energetic junior at East Carolina University (ECU), trotted up the walk of a suburban home in Pitt County, N.C. Jeanne wore a shirt emblazoned with the name “ECU Natural Hazards Mitigation Research Center.” She also wore a badge with her photograph, name, and solicitation permit number on it. She knocked, and a middle-aged man opened the door. 

“Yes?” he said, eyeing her. 

“Hi,” she said, smiling brightly. “My name is Jeanne. I’m an ECU student visiting Pitt County households today on behalf of the newly formed ECU Natural Hazards Mitigation Research Center. Would you like to make a contribution today?” It’s probably safe to say that the last thing the middle-aged man had on his mind was the possibility of Jeanne being a double agent. Yes, she was really trying to raise money for the center. But she was also part of a bigger experiment involving dozens of college students knocking on the doors of 5,000 households in Pitt County.  Read More »



What Can a Ball and a Bucket Teach Us About Why Women Earn Less Than Men?

John List and Uri Gneezy have appeared on our blog many times. Now they have written a book, The Why Axis: Hidden Motives and the Undiscovered Economics of Everyday Life. (The title, by the way, was crowdsourced on this blog). Below is the first in a series of guest posts adapted from the book; Gneezy spoke about this research in our podcast “Women Are Not Men.”

What can a Ball and Bucket Teach Us About Why Women Earn Less than Men?
By Uri Gneezy and John List

The sign on the road leading to the city of Shilong in the Khasi hills of northeast India had a puzzling message: “Equitable distribution of self-acquired property rights.” Later we’d find out that the sign was part of a nascent men’s movement, as the men in the Khasi society were not allowed to own property. We’d traveled across the world in search of such a parallel universe—one where men felt like “breeding bulls and babysitters”—because evidence in the U.S. was starting to point to a massive gap in preferences towards competition between the genders and we wanted to understand the reason why.

Our plan was to take a simple game to a matrilineal society (the Khasi) and patrilineal society (the Masai in Tanzania) and give participants just one choice: Earn a small certain payment for their performance in the game or earn a much bigger payment for their performance, but only if they also bested a randomly chosen competitor. The game we settled on? Tossing tennis balls into a bucket 3 meters away.  The experiment was conducted with Kenneth Leonard as a coauthor. Read More »



Thanks to Freakonomics Blog Readers (Sort of), the Gneezy and List Book Finally Has a Title

A while back we held a contest for the new popular economics book written by Uri Gneezy and John List. The authors and their publishers picked some of their favorite title suggestions and then we ran a beauty contest to determine which title was most popular among blog readers. The deal was that the person who proposed the winning title would get $1,000. Another $1,000 was to be split between randomly selected beauty contest participants.

Before I tell you which title won, let me tell you about the naming of Freakonomics. We had such an impossibly hard time coming up with a good name until my sister Linda came up with “Freakonomics.” To make a long story short, the publishers hated that name for a long time, but finally gave in. The rest is history. Of course we were all just guessing — it would have been nice to have data, the way Uri and John did.

So what do the data say? The winner of the beauty contest, with 33 percent of the votes, was The Carrot that Moved A Mountain: How the Right Incentives Shape the Economics of Everyday Life. Congratulations to Ivy Tantuco who proposed that title and collected the $1,000 prize.(Congratulations also to Jenna Dargie and Melinda Reiss, who were the randomly chosen beauty contest winners and pocketed $500 each.) Read More »



Another $1,000 at Stake in the Gneezy-List Book Title Experiment

A couple weeks ago, Uri Gneezy and John List asked our blog readers to come up with titles for their new book.  And our readers did not disappoint!  There were over 400 suggestions, many of them brilliant.

The authors and their editors have now narrowed it down to five choices, and they once again are asking for your help in deciding on the final title.  There is no better way to solicit that input than — you guessed it — a field experiment.  To get you interested, they are putting up another $1,000 in prizes to participants.

The rules are simple: You go here and answer  two simple questions.

First, you will be asked to choose which of the five titles you think will be the most popular among all the respondents.  They don’t want to know your favorite title, they want to know the title you think other people will like best. Read More »



Here’s Your Chance to Name a (Soon-to-Be) Best-Selling Book and Win $1,000

 My close friend, colleague, and frequent co-author John List has written a popular (non-academic) book with another economist, Uri Gneezy.  John and Uri are pioneers in the area of “field experiments” which bring the power of randomized experiments into real-world settings.   In my opinion, field experiments are the future of empirical economics.  We’ve written at length in our books and on our blog about the amazing work these two have been doing. I’ve had the chance to read John and Uri’s book, and I loved it.

The thing they can’t figure out, however, is what to call the book!  If only my sister Linda – the greatest namer of things the world has ever known — were still around, she would figure out a great title for sure.  In her absence, they’ve asked if I could mobilize the collective genius of you, the Freakonomics blog readers.

Okay, so here is the deal.  Below, I’ve provided some information on the book and links to some materials that might prove useful to you in coming up with a name.  You have two days to generate great titles for the book, which you can submit as comments on this blog post. Read More »



Putting Microeconomics to Work

I’ve long been puzzled by the almost complete disconnect between real-world businesses and academic economics.  After I graduated from college, I went to work as a management consultant.  Almost nothing I learned as an economics major proved helpful to me in that job.  Then, when I went back to get a Ph.D., I thought what I had learned in consulting would help me in economics.  I was wrong about that as well!

Ever since, I’ve felt that both business and economics would benefit from a greater connection.  Why don’t businesses set prices the way economics textbooks say they should?  Why are randomized experiments so rare in business?  Why do economists write down models of how businesses behave without spending time watching how decisions are actually made at businesses? The list goes on and on. Read More »



How to Maximize Your Halloween Candy Haul: A New Marketplace Podcast

A few weeks ago, we got an e-mail from a reader Vishal Dosanjh, who lives in St. Louis:

My daughter asked me this morning why the fancy neighborhoods are the best places to go trick-or-treating. It puzzled me for a moment and then realized it was an economic question. I gave her an answer about disposable income and societal expectations. Anyway I thought it might be up your alley, and I wonder if it’s even true. Do wealthy neighborhoods/people actually give out better candy? She’s 8 by the way.

We set out to answer Vishal’s question in our latest Freakonomics Radio on Marketplace podcast. Read More »



Should the Government Be Targeting a Different Kind of Discrimination?

A new working paper from Uri Gneezy, John List, and Michael K. Price looks at discrimination via a variety of field experiments and more than 3,000 individual transactions:

In certain markets, the observed discrimination is not bigotry or animus-based, but consistent with the notion of profit-maximization, or Pigou’s (1920) “third-degree price discrimination”: in their pursuit of the most profitable transactions, marketers use observable characteristics to make statistical inference about reservation values of market agents. In others, the discrimination is more in line with Becker’s (1957) taste based theory of discrimination, or animus.

Interestingly, the nature of discrimination is less driven by particulars of the market or institutions, rather the nature of the disparate behavior is driven by whether the object of discrimination is a choice of the individual or is uncontrollable.

Read More »