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Characterizing Selection Bias Using Experimental Data


  • James Heckman
  • Hidehiko Ichimura
  • Jeffrey Smith
  • Petra Todd


Semiparametric methods are developed to estimate the bias that arises from using nonexperimental comparison groups to evaluate social programs and to test the identifying assumptions that justify matching, selection models and the method of difference in differences. Using data from an experiment on a prototypical social program and data from nonexperimental comparison groups, the authors reject the assumptions justifying matching and their extensions of it. The evidence supports the selection bias model and the assumptions that justify a semiparametric version of the method of difference-in-differences. The authors extend their analysis to consider applications of the methods to ordinary observational data. Journal: Econometrica

Suggested Citation

  • James Heckman & Hidehiko Ichimura & Jeffrey Smith & Petra Todd, 1998. "Characterizing Selection Bias Using Experimental Data," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 66(5), pages 1017-1098, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecm:emetrp:v:66:y:1998:i:5:p:1017-1098

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Ahn, Hyungtaik & Powell, James L., 1993. "Semiparametric estimation of censored selection models with a nonparametric selection mechanism," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 58(1-2), pages 3-29, July.
    2. Ashenfelter, Orley C, 1978. "Estimating the Effect of Training Programs on Earnings," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 60(1), pages 47-57, February.
    3. Ashenfelter, Orley & Card, David, 1985. "Using the Longitudinal Structure of Earnings to Estimate the Effect of Training Programs," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 67(4), pages 648-660, November.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C14 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods and Methodology: General - - - Semiparametric and Nonparametric Methods: General
    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments


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