Advantages and disadvantages of field experiments

General Information

Advantages and disadvantages of field experiments
Anya Samek
Publication Type
Book (chapter)
Handbook of Research Methods and Applications in Experimental Economics
Over the past two decades, experimental economics has seen a large increase in the use of field experiments. Field experiments provide a useful bridge between the stylized environment of the laboratory and the context-rich environment of the outside world. Field experiments have now been used in a range of applications, including in development economics, charitable giving, labor economics, discrimination in markets, financial decision-making, education and health. When comparing the laboratory and field experiments, two themes emerge. The first is whether results from the experiment can be generalized, and the second is the level of control that the experimenter has. These themes represent a trade-off, since generalizability can sometimes be higher in the field, but this comes with some loss of control. This chapter provides an overview of field experiments, explores the advantages and disadvantages of the method, and provides a how-to guide for new researchers to the method.