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Identification and Estimation of Causal Mechanisms and Net Effects of a Treatment under Unconfoundedness

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Author Info

  • Flores, Carlos A.

    ()
    (University of Miami)

  • Flores-Lagunes, Alfonso

    ()
    (Syracuse University)

Abstract

An important goal when analyzing the causal effect of a treatment on an outcome is to understand the mechanisms through which the treatment causally works. We define a causal mechanism effect of a treatment and the causal effect net of that mechanism using the potential outcomes framework. These effects provide an intuitive decomposition of the total effect that is useful for policy purposes. We offer identification conditions based on an unconfoundedness assumption to estimate them, within a heterogeneous effect environment, and for the cases of a randomly assigned treatment and when selection into the treatment is based on observables. Two empirical applications illustrate the concepts and methods.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 4237.

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Length: 41 pages
Date of creation: Jun 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp4237

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Keywords: causal inference; causal mechanisms; post-treatment variables; principal stratification;

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References

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  1. Imbens, Guido W. & Wooldridge, Jeffrey M., 2008. "Recent Developments in the Econometrics of Program Evaluation," IZA Discussion Papers 3640, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Dan A. Black & Jeffrey Smith, 2003. "How Robust is the Evidence on the Effects of College Quality? Evidence From Matching," University of Western Ontario, CIBC Centre for Human Capital and Productivity Working Papers 20033, University of Western Ontario, CIBC Centre for Human Capital and Productivity.
  3. Lars Skipper & Marianne Simonsen, 2006. "The costs of motherhood: an analysis using matching estimators," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 21(7), pages 919-934.
  4. David Card & Dean R. Hyslop, 2005. "Estimating the Effects of a Time-Limited Earnings Subsidy for Welfare-Leavers," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 73(6), pages 1723-1770, November.
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  6. Ronald G. Ehrenberg & George Jakubson & Jeffrey Groen & Eric So & Joseph Price, 2006. "Inside the Black Box of Doctoral Education: What Program Characteristics Influence Doctoral Students' Attrition and Graduation Probabilities?," NBER Working Papers 12065, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Guido W. Imbens, 2010. "Better LATE Than Nothing: Some Comments on Deaton (2009) and Heckman and Urzua (2009)," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 48(2), pages 399-423, June.
  8. Donald B. Rubin, 2004. "Direct and Indirect Causal Effects via Potential Outcomes," Scandinavian Journal of Statistics, Danish Society for Theoretical Statistics & Finnish Statistical Society & Norwegian Statistical Association & Swedish Statistical Association, vol. 31(2), pages 161-170.
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  10. Janet Currie & Matthew Neidell, 2003. "Getting Inside the "Black Box" of Head Start Quality: What Matters and What Doesn't?," NBER Working Papers 10091, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  12. Guido Imbens, 2000. "Efficient Estimation of Average Treatment Effects Using the Estimated Propensity Score," Econometric Society World Congress 2000 Contributed Papers 1166, Econometric Society.
  13. Jinyong Hahn, 1998. "On the Role of the Propensity Score in Efficient Semiparametric Estimation of Average Treatment Effects," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 66(2), pages 315-332, March.
  14. 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.
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  16. Flores-Lagunes, Alfonso & Gonzalez, Arturo & Neumann, Todd C., 2005. "Learning but Not Earning? The Value of Job Corps Training for Hispanic Youths," IZA Discussion Papers 1638, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  17. Lorraine Dearden & Javier Ferri & Costas Meghir, 2002. "The Effect Of School Quality On Educational Attainment And Wages," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 84(1), pages 1-20, February.
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  21. Manski, Charles F, 1990. "Nonparametric Bounds on Treatment Effects," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(2), pages 319-23, May.
  22. Heckman, James J & Ichimura, Hidehiko & Todd, Petra, 1998. "Matching as an Econometric Evaluation Estimator," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 65(2), pages 261-94, April.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Huber, Martin, 2014. "Causal pitfalls in the decomposition of wage gaps," Economics Working Paper Series 1405, University of St. Gallen, School of Economics and Political Science.
  2. Huber, Martin, 2012. "Identifying causal mechanisms in experiments (primarily) based on inverse probability weighting," Economics Working Paper Series 1213, University of St. Gallen, School of Economics and Political Science, revised May 2013.
  3. Frölich, Markus & Huber, Martin, 2014. "Direct and Indirect Treatment Effects: Causal Chains and Mediation Analysis with Instrumental Variables," IZA Discussion Papers 8280, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  4. Sung Jae Jun & Joris Pinkse & Haiqing Xu & Nese Yildiz, 2012. "Identification of treatment effects in a triangular system of equations," Department of Economics Working Papers 130910, The University of Texas at Austin, Department of Economics, revised Oct 2012.
  5. Bampasidou, Maria & Flores, Carlos A. & Flores-Lagunes, Alfonso, 2011. "Unbundling the Degree Effect in a Job Training Program for Disadvantaged Youth," 2011 Annual Meeting, July 24-26, 2011, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 103619, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
  6. Huber, Martin & Mellace, Giovanni & Lechner, Michael, 2014. "The finite sample performance of estimators for mediation analysis under sequential conditional independence," Economics Working Paper Series 1415, University of St. Gallen, School of Economics and Political Science.
  7. Huber, Martin & Mellace, Giovanni & Lechner, Michael, 2014. "Why do tougher caseworkers increase employment? The role of programme assignment as a causal mechanism," Economics Working Paper Series 1414, University of St. Gallen, School of Economics and Political Science.

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