CGO Launches Experimental Economics Program

LOGAN, Utah — The Center for Growth and Opportunity at Utah State University announced the creation of a new experimental economics program at the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business at Utah State University.

The program will be led by Utah State University Assistant Professor Lucas Rentschler and advised by Nobel prize-winning economist and Center for Growth and Opportunity board member Vernon L. Smith.

Experimental economics — using a controlled laboratory setting to study economic questions — has led to revolutionary discoveries in the field of economics and the study of public policy. The Center’s experimental economics program will produce cutting-edge experiments and engage students, faculty, and experts around the world to answer some of the most pressing problems of society.

Rentschler said the purpose of the program is to further study and apply how human behavior affects markets and public policies.

“The Experimental Economics Program will act as a hub for policy-minded experimental research by both facilitating and publicizing research with direct policy applications,” said Rentschler. “Our goal is to both advance and inform policy discussions, while building a community of researchers at Utah State and across the world.”

Rentschler plans to examine questions related to the incentives driving outcomes in the criminal justice system, as well as how voting behavior is affected by information dissemination and moderation on social media platforms.

Vernon L. Smith, a founding father in the field of experimental economics, said the experimental laboratory would be one of just a few in the country.

“When I first started running experiments more than 60 years ago, I could have never imagined the growth we’re seeing now,” said Smith. “This new program will place The Center for Growth and Opportunity at Utah State University at the forefront of those advancing these cutting-edge techniques. I’m thrilled to be a part of it.”

While experimental economics is a relatively new field, Rentschler said the implications of experimental economic studies had shaped the way public policies are designed.

“Experiments have been used to study everything from retail electricity deregulation, to match students to public schools, and to design mechanisms for spectrum auctions, among other issues,” said Rentschler. “That is the type of ground-breaking and transformative research that we are hoping to tackle right here at Utah State and at the Center for Growth and Opportunity.”

The laboratory itself is located in the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business, which has partnered with the Center for Growth and Opportunity to provide the space, computers, staff, scholars, and student fellows for the program.

Frank Caliendo, Academic Director of the Center for Growth and Opportunity and Head of the Department of Economics and Finance in the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business, said the program would not only conduct experiments, but it will also help students better understand economics by allowing them to participate in the experiments actively.

“This exciting partnership between the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business and the Center for Growth and Opportunity represents a fantastic opportunity for economics students,” said Caliendo. “Learning from Vernon and Lucas in a laboratory environment where they’re doing hands-on research and experiments is an incredibly valuable part of their overall experience in the Huntsman School.”

Nobel prize-winning economist and CGO board member, Vernon L. Smith
CGO scholars and fellows frequently comment on a variety of topics for the popular press. The views expressed therein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Center for Growth and Opportunity or the views of Utah State University.