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Testing for Structural Breaks in the Evaluation of Programs

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  • Anne Morrison Piehl
  • Suzanne J. Cooper
  • Anthony A. Braga
  • David M. Kennedy

Abstract

A standard methodology in program evaluation is to use time series variation to compare pre- and post-program outcomes. However, when the timing of a break in a statistical relationship can be determined only by looking at the data, then the usual distribution of the test statistic which assumes exogenous timing of the break is no longer valid. Tests for parameter instability provide a flexible framework for testing a range of hypotheses commonly posed in program evaluation. These tests help pinpoint the timing of maximal break and provide a valid test of statistical significance. These tests are particularly useful when the start date of the intervention and any effect is unclear and possibly endogenous due to implementation lags. A test of parameter instability is applied to the evaluation of the Boston Gun Project, a comprehensive effort to reduce youth homicide in Boston in the mid 1990s. The dynamics of gang violence meant that no parts of the city could be used as reasonable comparison sites, and thus time series analysis is the only feasible means of evaluating the program impact. The statistical procedure identifies a statistically significant discontinuity in youth homicide incidents shortly after the intervention was unveiled. The intervention was associated with about a 60 percent decline in youth homicide.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 7226.

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Date of creation: Jul 1999
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Publication status: published as Piehl, Anne Morrison, Suzanne J. Cooper, Anthony A. Braga and David M. Kennedy. "Testing For Structural Breaks In The Evaluation Of Programs," Review of Economics and Statistics, 2003, v85(3,Aug), 550-558.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7226

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  1. Budd, J.W. & Nho, Y., 1995. "Testing for a Structurak Change in U.S. Wage Determination," Papers 95-03, Minnesota - Industrial Relations Center.
  2. Anindya Banerjee & Robin L. Lumsdaine & James H. Stock, 1990. "Recursive and Sequential Tests of the Unit Root and Trend Break Hypothesis: Theory and International Evidence," NBER Working Papers 3510, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  6. Jushan Bai, 1995. "Estimating Multiple Breaks One at a Time," Working papers 95-18, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  7. Jushan Bai & Pierre Perron, 1998. "Estimating and Testing Linear Models with Multiple Structural Changes," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 66(1), pages 47-78, January.
  8. Cooper, Suzanne J, 1998. "Multiple Regimes in U.S. Output Fluctuations," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 16(1), pages 92-100, January.
  9. Hamilton, James D, 1989. "A New Approach to the Economic Analysis of Nonstationary Time Series and the Business Cycle," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(2), pages 357-84, March.
  10. Quintos, Carmela E, 1995. "Sustainability of the Deficit Process with Structural Shifts," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 13(4), pages 409-17, October.
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