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Sample Attrition Bias in Randomized Experiments: A Tale of Two Surveys

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  • Behaghel, Luc

    ()
    (Paris School of Economics)

  • Crépon, Bruno

    ()
    (CREST)

  • Gurgand, Marc

    ()
    (Paris School of Economics)

  • Le Barbanchon, Thomas

    ()
    (CREST)

Abstract

The randomized trial literature has helped to renew the fields of microeconometric policy evaluation by emphasizing identification issues raised by endogenous program participation. Measurement and attrition issues have perhaps received less attention. This paper analyzes the dramatic impact of sample attrition in a large job search experiment. We take advantage of two independent surveys on the same initial sample of 8, 000 persons. The first one is a long telephone survey that had a strikingly low and unbalanced response rate of about 50%. The second one is a combination of administrative data and a short telephone survey targeted at those leaving the unemployment registers; this enriched data source has a balanced and much higher response rate (about 80%). With naive estimates that neglect non responses, these two sources yield puzzlingly different results. Using the enriched administrative data as benchmark, we find evidence that estimates from the long telephone survey lack external and internal validity. We turn to existing methods to bound the effects in the presence of sample selection; we extend them to the context of randomization with imperfect compliance. The bounds obtained from the two surveys are compatible but those from the long telephone survey are somewhat uninformative. We conclude on the consequences for data collection strategies.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 4162.

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Length: 31 pages
Date of creation: May 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp4162

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Keywords: randomized evaluation; survey non response; bounds;

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  1. Card, David & Chetty, Raj & Weber, Andrea, 2007. "The Spike at Benefit Exhaustion: Leaving the Unemployment System or Starting a New Job?," IZA Discussion Papers 2590, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Ashenfelter, Orley & Ashmore, David & Deschenes, Olivier, 2000. "Do Unemployment Insurance Recipients Actively Seek Work? Evidence From Randomized Trials in Four U.S. States," IZA Discussion Papers 128, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. Esther Duflo & Rachel Glennerster & Michael Kremer, 2006. "Using Randomization in Development Economics Research: A Toolkit," NBER Technical Working Papers 0333, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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