John A. List

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This article is about the economist. For the mass murderer, see John List.
John A. List
Born (1968-09-25) September 25, 1968 (age 48)
Madison, Wisconsin
Nationality American
Institution University of Chicago
Field Economics
Alma mater University of Wyoming
University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point
Shelby Gerking
Michael Price
Sally Sadoff
Anya Samek
Rob Metcalfe
Omar Al-Ubaydli
Min lee
Influences Vernon Smith
Gary Becker
Information at IDEAS / RePEc

John August List (born September 25, 1968) is an American economist at the University of Chicago, where he serves as Homer J. Livingston Distinguished Service Professor in Economics and the Chairman of the Department of Economics. List is noted for his innovative use of field experiments in economics. As detailed in his popular science book, The Why Axis (co-authored with Uri Gneezy), List uses field experiments to offer new insights in various areas of economics research, such as education, private provision of public goods, social preferences, prospect theory, environmental economics, marketplace effects on corporate and government policy decisions, and multi-unit auctions.

List received his bachelor's degree from the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point, and his Ph.D. from the University of Wyoming in 1996. He had his first teaching position at the University of Central Florida, and he then moved to the University of Arizona and the University of Maryland, College Park, where he still holds an adjunct position, before moving to Chicago. List also spends time at Tilburg University, where he is a distinguished visiting scholar and Resources for the Future, where he is a University Distinguished Scholar. From May 2002 to July 2003 he served as Senior Economist, President’s Council of Economic Advisers. In 2011 List was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.[1] In 2015 he was elected Fellow of the Econometric Society.


He attended Sun Prairie High School, graduating in 1987. He went on to become an Academic All-American in golf at the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point in 1990 and 1991, while majoring in Economics, graduating in 1992. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Wyoming in 1996 under supervision of Shelby Gerking. He began his career at the University of Central Florida as an assistant professor in 1996. He became an associate professor in 2000 at the University of Arizona where he worked with Vernon L. Smith on furthering his field experimental methods. In 2001 he was awarded a full professorship at the University of Maryland, College Park. He held that post until 2004, when he received an appointment as a full professor at the Economics Department of the University of Chicago. In January 2011, List was awarded an endowed professorship at the University of Chicago's Economics Department for his work in the area of field experiments.


His work focuses on microeconomic issues, and includes over 150 academic publications.[2] Among these articles are field experiments using several different markets to obtain data, including charitable fundraising activities, the Chicago Board of Trade, Costa Rican CEOs, the new automobile market, sports memorabilia markets, coin markets, auto repair markets, open air markets located everywhere—from the United States to Morocco to India, various venues on the internet, several auction settings, shopping malls, various labor markets, and grammar and high schools.

Behavioral economics[edit]

List's research on behavioral economics has focused on testing theories like gift exchange, social preferences, and prospect theory. Traditional tests of these theories relied on recruiting undergraduate students to participate in experiments for a small amount of money. List instead recruited subjects in actual marketplaces to participate in experiments, sometimes unbeknownst to even the subjects.[3] List's field experiments have found that gift exchange is not as powerful a motivator of labor effort as earlier research found,[4] that social preferences are not as pronounced as prior research found,[5] and that the divergence between Willingness to Pay and Willingness to Accept often called the endowment effect, predicted by prospect theory, disappears with market experience.[6]

List's recent work in behavioral economics has found that framing can induce increased worker productivity.,[7] and has been picked up by several corporations around the world.

Environmental economics[edit]

List has published research on the impact of environmental regulation on economic production[8] and on endangered species.[9] List's research has also focused on testing non-market valuation mechanisms in the field frequently used in contingent valuation[10] and in testing different incentives to promote environmentally friendly technology adoption.[11]

Charitable giving[edit]

List has also brought social preferences and value of public goods to the marketplace by testing determinants of charitable giving. List has found that a number of the traditional techniques in the philanthropy world are not well understood. For example, the higher the announced seed money[12] the more people give. Also, matching grants[13] increase giving, but it doesn't matter if the match is 1:1 or 3:1.[14] List has also found that giving is easily influenced by incentives that discount the importance of altruism in motivating giving. For example, List has found that beauty[15] and social pressure[16] are important motivators for giving.

Some of his more recent field experimental work on charitable fundraising were highlighted in New York Times Magazine.[17] In a recent Crain's Chicago Business article, List is referred to as a "rock star" in the area of philanthropy.[18]


List's recent research focuses on increasing educational achievement. In 2008 he worked with Chicago Heights, IL to design cash incentives for ninth graders and their parents to increase academic performance.[19] In 2009 he won a $10 million grant from the Griffin Foundation to study the returns to pre-school education by founding a pre-school called The Griffin Early Childhood Center[20] and to test the impact of performance pay for teachers in Chicago Heights, IL.[21]

List's recent education research was recently discussed in Bloomberg.[22]

Other research[edit]

List has studied the economics of discrimination, finding that discrimination in marketplaces is statistical discrimination, rarely motivated by animus.[23] He has also investigated gender differences in competition and wages, finding that men are more likely to apply for jobs that offer incentive pay than women.[24] He has also researched the role of gender in competition in matrilineal and patriarchal societies, finding that women in matrilineal societies opt to compete at similar levels to men in patriarchal societies.[25] List has also used experiments to test ideas in finance. He has tested the options model,[26] information cascades,[27] and the equity premium puzzle[28] with undergraduate students and professional traders. Many of these ideas were advanced by List when he taught at the Finnish School of Finance in 2007 on field experiments in Finance.

Personal life[edit]

List currently resides with his wife and five children in Hyde Park, Chicago. He likes to read and coach his kids' baseball teams in his spare time.[citation needed]


A collection of a few of the recent pieces written on List's field experiments can be found in the following articles.

Academic publications[edit]

  • List, John A., “Informed Consent in Social Science,” Science, October 21, 2008, 322(5886), p. 672.
  • List, John A., “Homo experimentalis evolves,” Science, July 11, 2008, 321(5886), pp. 207–208.
  • Levitt, Steven D. and John A. List, “Homo economicus evolves,” Science, February 15, 2008, 319(5865), pp. 909–910.
  • Karlan, Dean and John A. List. “Does Price Matter in Charitable Giving? Evidence from a Large-Scale Natural Field Experiment,” American Economic Review, (2007), 97(5), pp. 1774–1793.
  • Harrison, Glenn W., John A. List, and Charles Towe, “Naturally Occurring Preferences and Exogenous Laboratory Experiments: A Case Study of Risk Aversion,” Econometrica, (2007), 75 (2): 433-458.
  • Alevy, Jon, Michael Haigh, and John A. List. “Information Cascades: Evidence from a Field Experiment with Financial Market Professionals,” Journal of Finance, (2007), 62 (1): 151-180.
  • List, John A. “On the Interpretation of Giving in Dictator Games,” Journal of Political Economy, (2007), 115(3): 482-494.
  • List, John A. and Daniel Sturm. “How Elections Matter: Theory and Evidence from Environmental Policy,” Quarterly Journal of Economics, (2006), November 121(4): 1249–1281.
  • Gneezy, Uri, and John A. List. “Putting Behavioral Economics to Work: Testing for Gift Exchange in Labor Markets Using Field Experiments,” Econometrica, (2006), September, 74(5): 1365–1384.
  • List, John A., “The Behavioralist Meets the Market: Measuring Social Preferences and Reputation Effects in Actual Transactions,” Journal of Political Economy, (2006), 114(1): 1-37.
  • Landry, Craig, Andreas Lange, John A. List, Michael K. Price, and Nicholas Rupp. "Toward an Understanding of the Economics of Charity: Evidence from a Field Experiment,” Quarterly Journal of Economics, (2006), 121 (2): 747-782.
  • Haigh, Michael and List, John A. “Do Professional Traders Exhibit Myopic Loss Aversion? An Experimental Analysis,” Journal of Finance, (2005), 60 (1): 523-534.
  • List, John A. and Michael Haigh. “A Simple Test of Expected Utility Theory Using Professional Traders,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2005), 102(3): 945-948.
  • List, John A. "Testing Neoclassical Competitive Theory in Multi-Lateral Decentralized Markets," Journal of Political Economy (2004), 112(5): 1131–1156.
  • List, John A. Robert Berrens, Alok Bohara, and Joe Kerkvliet. "Examining the Role of Social Isolation on Stated Preferences," American Economic Review (2004), 94 (3): 741-752.
  • Harrison, Glenn and John A. List. "Field Experiments," Journal of Economic Literature (2004), XLII (December): 1013–1059.
  • List, John A. "Neoclassical Theory Versus Prospect Theory: Evidence from the Marketplace," Econometrica (2004), 72(2): 615-625.
  • List, John A. “The Nature and Extent of Discrimination in the Marketplace: Evidence from the Field,” Quarterly Journal of Economics (2004), 119(1): 49-89.
  • List, John A. “Does Market Experience Eliminate Market Anomalies?,” Quarterly Journal of Economics (2003), 118(1), 41-71.
  • Pacala, Steven, Erwin Bulte, John A. List, and Simon Levin, "False Alarm over Environmental False Alarms," Science (2003), 301(5637), 1187–1189.
  • List, John A. "Preference Reversals of a Different Kind: The More is Less Phenomenon," American Economic Review (2002), 92(5): 1636–1643.
  • List, John A. and Lucking-Reiley, David. “The Effects of Seed Money and Refunds on Charitable Giving: Experimental Evidence from a University Capital Campaign,” Journal of Political Economy (2002), 110(1): 215-233
  • List, John A. "Testing Neoclassical Competitive Market Theory in the Field," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2002), 99 (24): 15827-15830.
  • List, John A. “Do Explicit Warnings Eliminate the Hypothetical Bias in Elicitation Procedures? Evidence from Field Auctions for Sportscards,” American Economic Review (2001), 91(5): 1498–1507.
  • List, John A. and Lucking-Reiley, David. “Demand Reduction in a Multi-Unit Auction: Evidence from a Sportscard Field Experiment,” American Economic Review (2000), September, 90(4): 961-972.
  • List John A. and Jason F. Shogren, “Calibration of the difference between actual and hypothetical valuations in a field experiment.” Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, (1998), 37 (2): 193-205.


  1. ^ "American Academy of Arts and Sciences elects nine UChicago scholars". April 20, 2011. 
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  3. ^ "What Do Laboratory Experiments Measuring Social Preferences Reveal about the Real World?". doi:10.2307/30033722 (inactive 2017-01-24). JSTOR 30033722. 
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  17. ^ Leonhardt, David (March 9, 2008). "What Makes People Give?". New York Times. 
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  19. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)[dead link]
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  21. ^ "Anne and Kenneth Griffin Provide $10 Million for Multi-Year Study on School Improvement". October 8, 2009. 
  22. ^ Staley, Oliver (February 23, 2011). "Chicago Economist's 'Crazy Idea' Wins Ken Griffin's Backing". Bloomberg. 
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