NBER Working Papers by John Horton

Contact and additional information for this authorAll NBER papers and publicationsNBER Working Papers only

Working Papers

July 2016The Causes of Peer Effects in Production: Evidence from a Series of Field Experiments
with Richard J. Zeckhauser: w22386
Workers respond to the output choices of their peers. What explains this well documented phenomenon of peer effects? Do workers value equity, fear punishment from equity-minded peers, or does output from peers teach them about employers’ expectations? We test these alternative explanations in a series of field experiments. We find clear evidence of peer effects, as have others. Workers raise their own output when exposed to high-output peers. They also punish low-output peers, even when that low output has no effect on them. They may be embracing and enforcing the employer’s expectations. (Exposure to employer-provided work samples influences output much the same as exposure to peer-provided work.) However, even when employer expectations are clearly stated, workers increase output beyon...
February 2016Owning, Using and Renting: Some Simple Economics of the "Sharing Economy"
with Richard J. Zeckhauser: w22029
New Internet-based markets enable consumer/owners to rent out their durable goods when not using them. Such markets are modeled to determine ownership, rental rates, quantities, and surplus generated. Both the short run, before consumers can revise their ownership decisions, and the long run, in which they can, are examined to assess how these markets change ownership and consumption. The analysis examines bringing-to-market costs, such as labor costs and transaction costs, and considers the operating platform’s pricing problem. A survey of consumers broadly supports the modeling assumptions employed. For example, ownership is determined by individuals’ forward-looking assessments of planned usage.
October 2013Digitization and the Contract Labor Market: A Research Agenda
with Ajay Agrawal, Nicola Lacetera, Elizabeth Lyons: w19525
Online contract labor globalizes traditionally local labor markets, with platforms that enable employers, most of whom are in high-income countries, to more easily outsource tasks to contractors, primarily located in low-income countries. This market is growing rapidly; we provide descriptive statistics from one of the leading platforms where the number of hours worked increased 55% from 2011 to 2012, with the 2012 total wage bill just over $360 million. We outline three lines of inquiry in this market setting that are central to the broader digitization research agenda: 1) How will the digitization of this market influence the distribution of economic activity (geographic distribution of work, income distribution, distribution of work across firm boundaries)?; 2) What is the magnitude and...

Published: Digitization and the Contract Labor Market: A Research Agenda, Ajay Agrawal, John Horton, Nicola Lacetera, Elizabeth Lyons. in Economic Analysis of the Digital Economy, Goldfarb, Greenstein, and Tucker. 2015

May 2010The Online Laboratory: Conducting Experiments in a Real Labor Market
with David G. Rand, Richard J. Zeckhauser: w15961
Online labor markets have great potential as platforms for conducting experiments, as they provide immediate access to a large and diverse subject pool and allow researchers to conduct randomized controlled trials. We argue that online experiments can be just as valid - both internally and externally - as laboratory and field experiments, while requiring far less money and time to design and to conduct. In this paper, we first describe the benefits of conducting experiments in online labor markets; we then use one such market to replicate three classic experiments and confirm their results. We confirm that subjects (1) reverse decisions in response to how a decision-problem is framed, (2) have pro-social preferences (value payoffs to others positively), and (3) respond to priming by alt...

Published: John Horton & David Rand & Richard Zeckhauser, 2011. "The online laboratory: conducting experiments in a real labor market," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 14(3), pages 399-425, September. citation courtesy of

Contact and additional information for this authorAll NBER papers and publicationsNBER Working Papers only

NBER Videos

National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email:

Contact Us