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Published August 30, 2017 | Submitted
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Public Goods: A Survey of Experimental Research


Environments with public goods are a wonderful playground for those interested in delicate experimental problems, serious theoretical challenges, and difficult mechanism design issues. A review is made of various public goods experiments. It is found that the public goods environment is a very sensitive one with much that can affect outcomes but are difficult to control. The many factors interact with each other in unknown ways. Nothing is known for sure. Environments with public goods present a serious challenge even to skilled experimentalists and many opportunities for imaginative work.

Additional Information

Revised version. Original dated to August 1993. I thank the Flight Projects Office of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of NASA for their financial support. For their intellectual help and advice, I thank Peter Bohm, Don Coursey, Robyn Dawes, Roy Gardner, Mark Johnson, John Kagel, Jamie Brown-Kruse, Susan Laury, Gerald Marwell, Rosemarie Nagel, John Orbell, Elinor Ostrom, Tom Palfrey, Charles Plott, Amnon Rapoport, Al Roth, Tatsuyoshi Saijo, Steve Slutsky, Richard Thaler, James Walker, most of the participants in the Conference on Experimental Research on the Provision of Public Goods and Common-Property Resources at the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis at Indiana University, and especially Mark Isaac without whom I would not have gotten even this far. Some of these strongly disagree with parts of my commentary. They may be justified. Published as Ledyard, John O., "Public Goods: A Survey of Experimental Research" in Handbook of Experimental Economics, edited by J. Kagel and A. Roth, Princeton University Press 1995. 111-194

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August 20, 2023
August 20, 2023