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 49)
Madison, Wisconsin
Nationality American
Fields Economics
Institutions University of Chicago
Alma mater University of Wyoming, University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point
Influences Vernon Smith, Gary Becker

John August List (born September 25, 1968) is The Homer J. Livingston Professor in Economics and the chairman of the Department of Economics at the University of Chicago. He received his B.S. from the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point, and his Ph.D. from the University of Wyoming in 1996. List 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 Advisors for Environmental and Resource Economics, where he worked on multi-national market institutions to address climate change, the Clear Skies Act, the OMB benefit cost guidelines, and the Canada–United States softwood lumber dispute.

Within academia, List is known particularly for his innovative use of field experiments in economics, a research approach that List links to Swedish Economist Peter Bohm. For his work using field experiments, List was included as one of the Top 7 economists in the world according to a 2010 Forbes publication.[citation needed]. 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.

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. Some of his more recent field experimental work in the area of education was discussed in Bloomberg Magazine.[1] In the article, Nobel Laureate Gary Becker tabs List as a strong candidate for a future Nobel Prize for his work on field experiments. His work on charitable fundraising was highlighted in New York Times Magazine on March 9, 2008.,[2] where List is credited as being an early pioneer of field experiments. In a recent Crain's Chicago Business article, List is referred to as a "rock star" in the area of philanthropy.[3] Many of these seminal studies were produced while List was a faculty member at the University of Maryland, College Park and the University of Arizona.

List has received numerous awards. 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 prestigious 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."

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."

Marginal Revolution, a blog written by economist and author Tyler Cowen calls List "one of the most important young economists".[2] Greg Mankiw also tabs List as a top mind on his blog.[citation needed] The University of Chicago economist and author of Freakonomics, Steven Levitt, has referred to List as the young economist most likely to win a Nobel Prize in Economics. It has also been heavily speculated that List was the Clark medal runner-up in 2007.[3] In 2011 List was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.[4]


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. 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.[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]

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 more recent field experimental work on charitable fundraising were highlighted in New York Times Magazine.[20] In a recent 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]

Other research

List has studied the economics of discrimination, finding that discrimination in marketplaces is statistical discrimination, rarely motivated by animus.[26] 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.[27] 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.[28] List has also used experiments to test ideas in finance. He has tested the options model,[29] information cascades,[30] and the equity premium puzzle[31] 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 currently resides with his wife and five children in Flossmoor, IL. He likes to read and coach his kids' baseball teams in his spare time. His wife, Jennifer List, has recently started a children's clothing line called Seven Smooches.[32]


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

Academic publications

  • 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 Science (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 Science (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.  Missing or empty |title= (help)[dead link]
  2. Experimental Economics vs. Field Economics
  3. Susan Athey Wins Clark Medal
  4. "American Academy of Arts and Sciences elects nine UChicago scholars". April 20, 2011. 
  6. "What Do Laboratory Experiments Measuring Social Preferences Reveal about the Real World?". JSTOR 30033722. doi:10.2307/30033722 (inactive 2015-04-05). 
  20. Leonhardt, David (March 9, 2008). "What Makes People Give?". New York Times. 
  22.  Missing or empty |title= (help)[dead link]
  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. 

External links