Rutstrom’s recent research focuses on risk perceptions and risk attitudes among rural residents making wild fire management decisions and among drivers facing congestion charges during their daily commute. Using naturalistic cues in virtual reality simulations and natural cues in field settings she presents research participants with decision tasks and uses the observations to estimate and test various decision models. Techniques of controlled laboratory economics experiments are applied to virtual and field experiments involving participants recruited from the community. She explores issues of heterogeneity in preferences and cognition using various econometric approaches, with a special interest in the interaction between the characteristics of the agent, the task and the environmental cues.
In addition to her interest in decisions under risk and uncertainty, she has also published experimental research on public goods and externalities, learning and coordination, and hypothetical bias and valuation. She has also published applied policy research using Computable General Equilibrium models. Applications include international trade policy in less developed countries (Indonesia, Morocco, and Tunisia), and in the US, as well as tax and agricultural policies in the European Union. Some of this work was conducted as a consultant to the World Bank.
Rutstrom’s research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, including a Major Research Instrumentation grant, a Digital Library grant, and a Human Social Dynamics grant, by the Federal Highway Administration, the Danish Social Science Research Council and by the Carlsberg Foundation. She has published in international economic journals such as Econometrica, American Economic Review, Games and Economic Behavior, the Economic Journal and the Journal of Environmental and Economic Management.