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Dealing with limited overlap in estimation of average treatment effects

  • Richard K. Crump
  • V. Joseph Hotz
  • Guido W. Imbens
  • Oscar A. Mitnik

Estimation of average treatment effects under unconfounded or ignorable treatment assignment is often hampered by lack of overlap in the covariate distributions between treatment groups. This lack of overlap can lead to imprecise estimates, and can make commonly used estimators sensitive to the choice of specification. In such cases researchers have often used ad hoc methods for trimming the sample. We develop a systematic approach to addressing lack of overlap. We characterize optimal subsamples for which the average treatment effect can be estimated most precisely. Under some conditions, the optimal selection rules depend solely on the propensity score. For a wide range of distributions, a good approximation to the optimal rule is provided by the simple rule of thumb to discard all units with estimated propensity scores outside the range [0.1,0.9]. Copyright 2009, Oxford University Press.

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File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1093/biomet/asn055
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Article provided by Biometrika Trust in its journal Biometrika.

Volume (Year): 96 (2009)
Issue (Month): 1 ()
Pages: 187-199

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Handle: RePEc:oup:biomet:v:96:y:2009:i:1:p:187-199
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  1. A. Smith, Jeffrey & E. Todd, Petra, 2005. "Does matching overcome LaLonde's critique of nonexperimental estimators?," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 125(1-2), pages 305-353.
  2. Guido Imbens, 2000. "Efficient Estimation of Average Treatment Effects Using the Estimated Propensity Score," Econometric Society World Congress 2000 Contributed Papers 1166, Econometric Society.
  3. Richard K. Crump & V. Joseph Hotz & Guido W. Imbens & Oscar A. Mitnik, 2008. "Nonparametric Tests for Treatment Effect Heterogeneity," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 90(3), pages 389-405, August.
  4. Crump, Richard K. & Hotz, V. Joseph & Imbens, Guido W. & Mitnik, Oscar A., 2006. "Moving the Goalposts: Addressing Limited Overlap in Estimation of Average Treatment Effects by Changing the Estimand," IZA Discussion Papers 2347, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Alberto Abadie & Guido W. Imbens, 2006. "Large Sample Properties of Matching Estimators for Average Treatment Effects," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 74(1), pages 235-267, 01.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. Guido W. Imbens, 2004. "Nonparametric Estimation of Average Treatment Effects Under Exogeneity: A Review," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 86(1), pages 4-29, February.
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