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A Critical Survey of Empirical Methods for Evaluating Active Labor Market Policies

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  • Jeffrey Smith

Abstract

This paper considers different methods for solving the evaluation problem. I highlight the role of heterogeneity in program impacts in defining evaluation parameters of interest and in interpreting estimated program impacts. I discuss the strengths and weaknesses of social experiments and conclude that they require careful implementation and interpretation. I review and critique two popular non-experimental evaluation methods: difference-in-differences and propensity score matching. I find that the former relies on assumptions at odds with the empirical data and that the latter is not a magical solution to all evaluation problems. Finally, I argue for the importance of paying attention to data quality and general equilibrium effects.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Swiss Society of Economics and Statistics (SSES) in its journal Swiss Journal of Economics and Statistics.

Volume (Year): 136 (2000)
Issue (Month): III (September)
Pages: 247-268

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Handle: RePEc:ses:arsjes:2000-iii-2

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  1. Joshua Angrist & Alan Krueger, 1998. "Empirical Strategies in Labor Economics," Working papers 98-7, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  2. James J. Heckman & Lance Lochner & Christopher Taber, 1998. "Explaining Rising Wage Inequality: Explorations with a Dynamic General Equilibrium Model of Labor Earnings with Heterogeneous Agents," NBER Working Papers 6384, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Carl Davidson & Stephen A. Woodbury, 1990. "The Displacement Effect of Reemployment Bonus Programs," Upjohn Working Papers and Journal Articles 90-02, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
  4. Burt S. Barnow, 1987. "The Impact of CETA Programs on Earnings: A Review of the Literature," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 22(2), pages 157-193.
  5. James J. Heckman & Jeffrey A. Smith, 1995. "Assessing the Case for Social Experiments," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(2), pages 85-110, Spring.
  6. David G. Blanchflower & Richard B. Freeman, 2000. "Youth Employment and Joblessness in Advanced Countries," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number blan00-1, July.
  7. Gary Burtless, 1995. "The Case for Randomized Field Trials in Economic and Policy Research," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(2), pages 63-84, Spring.
  8. James Heckman & Jeffrey Smith & Christopher Taber, 1998. "Accounting For Dropouts In Evaluations Of Social Programs," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 80(1), pages 1-14, February.
  9. Anders Forslund & Alan B. Krueger, 1994. "An Evaluation of the Swedish Active Labor Market Policy: New and Received Wisdom," NBER Working Papers 4802, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. LaLonde, Robert J, 1986. "Evaluating the Econometric Evaluations of Training Programs with Experimental Data," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(4), pages 604-20, September.
  11. Imbens, Guido W & Angrist, Joshua D, 1994. "Identification and Estimation of Local Average Treatment Effects," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 62(2), pages 467-75, March.
  12. Dolton, Peter & O'Neill, Donal, 1996. "Unemployment Duration and the Restart Effect: Some Experimental Evidence," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 106(435), pages 387-400, March.
  13. Rajeev H. Dehejia & Sadek Wahba, 2002. "Propensity Score-Matching Methods For Nonexperimental Causal Studies," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 84(1), pages 151-161, February.
  14. Thomas Fraker & Rebecca Maynard, 1987. "The Adequacy of Comparison Group Designs for Evaluations of Employment-Related Programs," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 22(2), pages 194-227.
  15. Heckman, James J, 1979. "Sample Selection Bias as a Specification Error," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(1), pages 153-61, January.
  16. Bruce D. Meyer, 1995. "Lessons from the U.S. Unemployment Insurance Experiments," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 33(1), pages 91-131, March.
  17. Lechner, Michael, 1999. "Earnings and Employment Effects of Continuous Off-the-Job Training in East Germany after Unification," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 17(1), pages 74-90, January.
  18. Dan A. Black & Jeffrey A. Smith & Mark C. Berger & Brett J. Noel, 2002. "Is the Threat of Reemployment Services More Effective than the Services Themselves? Experimental Evidence from the UI System," NBER Working Papers 8825, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. Rajeev H. Dehejia & Sadek Wahba, 1998. "Causal Effects in Non-Experimental Studies: Re-Evaluating the Evaluation of Training Programs," NBER Working Papers 6586, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  20. Heckman, J.J. & Hotz, V.J., 1988. "Choosing Among Alternative Nonexperimental Methods For Estimating The Impact Of Social Programs: The Case Of Manpower Training," University of Chicago - Economics Research Center 88-12, Chicago - Economics Research Center.
  21. Gary Burtless & Larry L. Orr, 1986. "Are Classical Experiments Needed for Manpower Policy," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 21(4), pages 606-639.
  22. James J. Heckman & Jeffrey Smith, 2000. "The Sensitivity of Experimental Impact Estimates (Evidence from the National JTPA Study)," NBER Chapters, in: Youth Employment and Joblessness in Advanced Countries, pages 331-356 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  23. Heckman, James J & Smith, Jeffrey, 1997. "Making the Most Out of Programme Evaluations and Social Experiments: Accounting for Heterogeneity in Programme Impacts," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 64(4), pages 487-535, October.
  24. Heckman, James J & Ichimura, Hidehiko & Todd, Petra E, 1997. "Matching as an Econometric Evaluation Estimator: Evidence from Evaluating a Job Training Programme," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 64(4), pages 605-54, October.
  25. James J. Heckman & Jeffrey A. Smith, 1999. "The Pre-Program Earnings Dip and the Determinants of Participation in a Social Program: Implications for Simple Program Evaluation Strategies," NBER Working Papers 6983, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  26. Heckman, James J. & Robb, Richard Jr., 1985. "Alternative methods for evaluating the impact of interventions : An overview," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 30(1-2), pages 239-267.
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