John A. List

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John A. List
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John August List

(1968-09-25) September 25, 1968 (age 53)
Nationality American
Spouse(s) Dana L. Suskind
(m. 2018)
Institution University of Chicago
Field Economics
School or
Behavioral economics
Experimental economics
Alma mater University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point (BA)
University of Wyoming (PhD)
Shelby Gerking
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 Kenneth C. Griffin Distinguished Service Professor; from 2012 until 2018, he served as Chairman of the Department of Economics. List is noted for his pioneering contributions to field experiments in economics, with Nobel prize winning economist George Akerlof and noted law professor Cass Sunstein scribing that "List has done more than anyone else to advance the methods and practice of field experiments." [1] 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, discrimination, social preferences, prospect theory, environmental economics, marketplace effects on corporate and government policy decisions, gender and inclusion, corporate social responsibility and 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. [2] In 2015 he was elected Fellow of the Econometric Society and, according to RePEc, was the top ranked economist worldwide of the 40,000 economists who graduated in the last 20 years. As of March 2021, RePEc ranks him as the 9th most influential economist in the world. [3]


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.

In addition to his university career, List served as the chief economist for taxi company Uber, and later for the similar company Lyft. [4]


In 2015, List was shortlisted for a Nobel Prize by Reuters (alongside Charles Manski and Richard Blundell). List and Blundell were subsequently odds on favorites to win in betting parlors. List for his work on field experiments and Blundell for labor economics. At age 46, List was the youngest Reuters prediction by nearly 20 years. In April 2011 List was selected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2012, List was selected to receive the Yrjo Jahnsson Lecture Series prize, given by the Yrjö Jahnsson Foundation. The award, given every 2 years by the Finnish Foundation, recognized List's achievements to society from pioneering the use of field experiments. Ten of the previous Nineteen recipients have gone on to win the Nobel Prize in economics. In August 2017, List was awarded the Klein Prize International Economic Review for his work on field experiments. Six of the twenty recipient have won the Nobel Prize.

In November 2014 he was awarded an honorary doctorate by Tilburg University. Tilburg University calls him "a true pioneer in experimental field research," whose innovative work has "finally made it possible to test behavioral economic theory in everyday practice...He has raised this research area to a higher level with his originality, expertise, and impact, and he is an inspiration to many." In 2016, University of Ottawa bestowed the honorary doctorate to List for his pioneering work in field experiments. In 2011 List was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.[4] In 2015 he was elected Fellow of the Econometric Society.

In 2004, List received the 1st Place Competitive Paper Award for his field experiment titled “Informational Cascades: Evidence from a Field Experiment with Market Professionals.” The paper was picked as the top research study in 2004 within finance by the FMA, which considered hundreds of studies. List received the 2008 Arrow Senior Prize for his field experimental work in the area of testing economic theory from the BE Press. In July 2010, List was awarded the highest honor by the AAEA, the John Kenneth Galbraith prize. The award was given for recognition of List's "breakthrough discoveries in economics and outstanding contributions to humanity through leadership, research, and service. In particular, List's pathbreaking work using field experiments in economics."


His work focuses on microeconomic issues, and includes over 200 academic publications. [5] 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

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. [6] List's field experiments have found that gift exchange is not as powerful a motivator of labor effort as earlier research found, [7] that social preferences are not as pronounced as prior research found, [8] 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. [9]

List's recent work in behavioral economics has found that framing can induce increased worker productivity., [10] and has been picked up by several corporations around the world.

Environmental economics

List has published research on the impact of environmental regulation on economic production [11] and on endangered species. [12] List's research has also focused on testing non-market valuation mechanisms in the field frequently used in contingent valuation [13] and in testing different incentives to promote environmentally friendly technology adoption. [14] He also teaches in Kiel University Research Institute in summer 2017 where he developed ideas on non-market valuation using field experiments.

Charitable giving

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 [15] the more people give. Also, matching grants [16] increase giving, but it doesn't matter if the match is 1:1 or 3:1. [17] 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 [18] and social pressure [19] are important motivators for giving.

Some of his field experimental work on charitable fundraising were highlighted in The New York Times Magazine . [20] In a 2009 Crain's Chicago Business article, List is referred to as a "rock star" in the area of philanthropy. [21]


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. [22] 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 [23] and to test the impact of performance pay for teachers in Chicago Heights, IL. [24]

List's recent education research was recently discussed in Bloomberg. [25]

List co-founded and co-directs the Thirty Million Words Center for Early Learning and Public Health along with Dana L. Suskind. [26]

Other research

List has studied the economics of discrimination, finding that discrimination in marketplaces is statistical discrimination, rarely motivated by animus. [27] 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. [28] 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. [29] List has also used experiments to test ideas in finance. He has tested the options model, [30] information cascades, [31] and the equity premium puzzle [32] 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

List married surgeon Dana L. Suskind in 2018 [33] and resides with his eight children in Hyde Park, Chicago.


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

Academic publications

Related Research Articles

Microeconomics Behavior of individuals and firms

Microeconomics is a branch of mainstream economics that studies the behavior of individuals and firms in making decisions regarding the allocation of scarce resources and the interactions among these individuals and firms. Microeconomics focuses on the study of individual markets, sectors, or industries as opposed to the national economy as whole, which is studied in macroeconomics.

Kenneth Arrow American economist

Kenneth Joseph Arrow was an American economist, mathematician, writer, and political theorist. He was the joint winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences with John Hicks in 1972.

Vernon L. Smith American economist

Vernon Lomax Smith is an American economist and professor of business economics and law at Chapman University. He is formerly a professor of economics at the University of Arizona, professor of economics and law at George Mason University, and a board member of the Mercatus Center. He was also a founding board member of the Center for Growth and Opportunity at Utah State University.

Behavioral economics Academic discipline

Behavioral economics studies the effects of psychological, cognitive, emotional, cultural and social factors on the decisions of individuals and institutions and how those decisions vary from those implied by classical economic theory.

Experimental economics is the application of experimental methods to study economic questions. Data collected in experiments are used to estimate effect size, test the validity of economic theories, and illuminate market mechanisms. Economic experiments usually use cash to motivate subjects, in order to mimic real-world incentives. Experiments are used to help understand how and why markets and other exchange systems function as they do. Experimental economics have also expanded to understand institutions and the law.

George Stigler American economist (1911-1991)

George Joseph Stigler was an American economist, the 1982 laureate in Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences and a key leader of the Chicago School of Economics.

Ultimatum game Game in economic experiments

The ultimatum game is a game that has become a popular instrument of economic experiments. An early description is by Nobel laureate John Harsanyi in 1961. One player, the proposer, is endowed with a sum of money. The proposer is tasked with splitting it with another player, the responder. Once the proposer communicates his decision, the responder may accept it or reject it. If the responder accepts, the money is split per the proposal; if the responder rejects, both players receive nothing. Both players know in advance the consequences of the responder accepting or rejecting the offer.

Field experiment

Field experiments are experiments carried out outside of laboratory settings.

Personnel economics has been defined as "the application of economic and mathematical approaches and econometric and statistical methods to traditional questions in human resources management". It is an area of applied micro labor economics, but there are a few key distinctions. One distinction, not always clearcut, is that studies in personnel economics deal with the personnel management within firms, and thus internal labor markets, while those in labor economics deal with labor markets as such, whether external or internal. In addition, personnel economics deals with issues related to both managerial-supervisory and non-supervisory workers.

Alvin E. Roth American academic (born 1951)

Alvin Elliot Roth is an American academic. He is the Craig and Susan McCaw professor of economics at Stanford University and the Gund professor of economics and business administration emeritus at Harvard University. He was President of the American Economics Association in 2017.

Armin Falk German economist (born 1968)

Armin Falk is a German economist. He has held a chair at the University of Bonn since 2003.

Social preferences describe the human tendency to not only care about his/her own material payoff, but also the reference group's payoff or/and the intention that leads to the payoff. Social preferences are studied extensively in behavioral and experimental economics and social psychology. Types of social preferences include altruism, fairness, reciprocity, and inequity aversion. The field of economics originally assumed that humans were rational economic actors, and as it became apparent that this was not the case, the field began to change. The research of social preferences in economics started with lab experiments in 1980, where experimental economists found subjects' behavior deviated systematically from self-interest behavior in economic games such as ultimatum game and dictator game. These experimental findings then inspired various new economic models to characterize agent's altruism, fairness and reciprocity concern between 1990 and 2010. More recently, there are growing amounts of field experiments that study the shaping of social preference and its applications throughout society.

Uri Gneezy

Uri Hezkia Gneezy is the Epstein/Atkinson Endowed Chair in Behavioral Economics and Professor of Economics & Strategy at the University of California, San Diego's Rady School of Management.

Ayelet Gneezy

Ayelet Gneezy is an associate professor of marketing at the Rady School of Management, UC San Diego.

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Gary Charness is Professor of Economics and the Director of the Experimental and Behavioral Economics Laboratory in the Department of Economics at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Charness is an economist and social scientist, specializing in experimental and behavioral work; he is currently ranked 5th in the world by RePEc in the field of experimental economics and has published nearly 80 academic articles. Charness is a contributor to several areas of economic research, including social preferences, identity and group membership, communication and beliefs, behavioral interventions, group decision-making, social networks, gender, and individual decision-making. A centerpiece of his research has been to effect beneficial social outcomes in difficult economic environments. Charness's work has been discussed and published in The New York Times and Science, as well as in other media. Charness is married and has three children.

Urs Fischbacher is a Swiss economist and professor of applied economic research at the University of Konstanz. He is director of the Thurgau Economic Institute, an affiliated institute of the University of Konstanz. He pioneered the field of software tools for experimental economics.

James Andreoni is a Professor in the Economics Department of the University of California, San Diego where he directs the EconLab. His research focuses on behavioral economics, experimental economics, and public economics. Andreoni is well known for his research on altruism, and in particular for coining the term warm-glow giving to describe personal gains from altruistic acts. Andreoni's research uses a mixture of economic theory, experiments, and standard analysis of survey data to explore a variety of topics including: moral decision making, time preferences, charitable giving and altruistic decisions. His research has been described as expanding “our understanding of donors and charities and our broader understanding of public goods and expenditures.”

Anya Savikhin Samek is an economist who works in the fields of applied economics, behavioral economics, experimental economics, and household economics. She is currently an associate professor (research) of economics at the University of Southern California.

Gift-exchange game

The gift-exchange game is a game that has been introduced by Akerlof and Yellen to model labor relations. Two players are at least involved in such game – an employee and an employer. The employer has to decide first, whether to award a higher salary. Then, the decision of the employee about putting extra effort follows. Like trust games, gift-exchange games are used to study reciprocity for human subject research in social psychology and economics. If the employer pays extra salary and the employee puts extra effort, then both players are better off than otherwise. The relationship between an investor and an investee has been investigated as the same type of a game.


  1. Akerlof, George; Oliver, Adam; Sunstein, Cass (2021). "Editorial Introduction: Field experiments and public policy". Behavioural Public Policy. 5: 1. doi:10.1017/bpp.2020.16. S2CID   229355469.
  2. "American Academy of Arts and Sciences elects nine UChicago scholars". April 20, 2011.
  3. "Economist Rankings".
  4. Edmonds, David (24 October 2020). "The man who taught Uber how to say sorry". BBC News.
  5. "John List – Home Page" (PDF).
  6. Levitt, Steven D.; List, John A. (2007). "What Do Laboratory Experiments Measuring Social Preferences Reveal about the Real World?" (PDF). The Journal of Economic Perspectives. 21 (2): 153–174. doi:10.1257/jep.21.2.153. JSTOR   30033722.
  7. Gneezy, Uri; List, John A. (2006). "Putting Behavioral Economics to Work: Testing for Gift Exchange in Labor Markets Using Field Experiments" (PDF). Econometrica. 74 (5): 1365–1384. doi:10.1111/j.1468-0262.2006.00707.x. JSTOR   3805928.
  8. List, John A. (2006). "The Behavioralist Meets the Market: Measuring Social Preferences and Reputation Effects in Actual Transactions". Journal of Political Economy. 114 (1): 1–37. CiteSeerX . doi:10.1086/498587. JSTOR   10.1086/498587. S2CID   5759503.
  9. List, J. A. (1 February 2003). "Does Market Experience Eliminate Market Anomalies?" (PDF). The Quarterly Journal of Economics. 118 (1): 41–71. doi:10.1162/00335530360535144. ISSN   0033-5533.
  10. "New Economists worth knowing". 4 November 2010.
  11. List, John A.; Millimet, Daniel L.; Fredriksson, Per G.; McHone, W. Warren (1 November 2003). "Effects of Environmental Regulations on Manufacturing Plant Births: Evidence from a Propensity Score Matching Estimator" (PDF). The Review of Economics and Statistics. 85 (4): 944–952. doi:10.1162/003465303772815844. ISSN   0034-6535. S2CID   57562904.
  12. "Is the Endangered Species Act bad for endangered species? John List thinks it might be. - Freakonomics". 6 January 2007.
  13. List, John A. (2001). "Do Explicit Warnings Eliminate the Hypothetical Bias in Elicitation Procedures? Evidence from Field Auctions for Sportscards" (PDF). The American Economic Review. 91 (5): 1498–1507. doi:10.1257/aer.91.5.1498. JSTOR   2677935.
  15. List, John A.; Lucking‐Reiley, David (1 February 2002). "The Effects of Seed Money and Refunds on Charitable Giving: Experimental Evidence from a University Capital Campaign". Journal of Political Economy. 110 (1): 215–233. CiteSeerX . doi:10.1086/324392. ISSN   0022-3808. S2CID   2606544.
  16. Karlan, Dean; List, John A. (June 2006). "Does Price Matter in Charitable Giving? Evidence From a Large-Scale Natural Field Experiment". NBER Working Paper No. 12338. doi: 10.3386/w12338 .
  17. Hall, Holly. "Bigger Matching Gifts Don't Produce More Donors" (PDF). University of Chicago.
  18. Landry, Craig; Lange, Andreas; List, John A.; Price, Michael K.; Rupp, Nicholas G. (September 2005). "Toward an Understanding of the Economics of Charity: Evidence from a Field Experiment". NBER Working Paper No. 11611. doi: 10.3386/w11611 .
  19. DellaVigna, S.; List, J. A.; Malmendier, U. (1 February 2012). "Testing for Altruism and Social Pressure in Charitable Giving". The Quarterly Journal of Economics. 127 (1): 1–56. CiteSeerX . doi:10.1093/qje/qjr050. ISSN   0033-5533. PMID   22448394. S2CID   8389271.
  20. Leonhardt, David (March 9, 2008). "What Makes People Give?". The New York Times .
  21. Le Beau, Christina (2009-08-22). "Cracking the fundraising code". Crain's Chicago Business . Retrieved 2018-05-25.
  22. Staley, Oliver (February 23, 2011). "Chicago Economist's 'Crazy Idea' Wins Ken Griffin's Backing" .
  23. "Welcome -".
  24. "Anne and Kenneth Griffin Provide $10 Million for Multi-Year Study on School Improvement". October 8, 2009.
  25. Staley, Oliver (February 23, 2011). "Chicago Economist's 'Crazy Idea' Wins Ken Griffin's Backing". Bloomberg.
  26. "Leadership". TMW. Retrieved 2019-05-23.
  27. List, John A. (2004). "The Nature and Extent of Discrimination in the Marketplace: Evidence from the Field" (PDF). The Quarterly Journal of Economics. 119 (1): 49–89. doi:10.1162/003355304772839524. JSTOR   25098677.
  28. Dye, Lee (19 January 2011). "Why Do Women Shy From Competitive Jobs?". ABC News.
  29. Gneezy, Uri; Leonard, Kenneth L.; List, John A. (January 2008). "Gender Differences in Competition: Evidence from a Matrilineal and a Patriarchal Society". NBER Working Paper No. 13727. doi: 10.3386/w13727 .
  30. List, John A.; Haigh, Michael S. (2010). "Investment under Uncertainty: Testing the Options Model with Professional Traders". National Bureau of Economic Research. doi:10.3386/w16038.Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  31. Alevy, Jonathan E.; Haigh, Michael S.; List, John A. (2007). "Information Cascades: Evidence from a Field Experiment with Financial Market Professionals" (PDF). The Journal of Finance. 62 (1): 151–180. doi:10.1111/j.1540-6261.2007.01204.x. JSTOR   4123459.
  32. Haigh, Michael S.; List, John A. (1 February 2005). "Do Professional Traders Exhibit Myopic Loss Aversion? An Experimental Analysis". The Journal of Finance. 60 (1): 523–534. CiteSeerX . doi:10.1111/j.1540-6261.2005.00737.x. ISSN   1540-6261.
  33. "From 'Thirty Million Words' to Just Two: I Do". Retrieved 2019-01-29.