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Substitution and Dropout Bias in Social Experiments: A Study of an Influential Social Experiment

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  • James Heckman
  • Neil Hohmann
  • Jeffrey Smith
  • Michael Khoo

Abstract

This paper considers the interpretation of evidence from social experiments when persons randomized out of a program being evaluated have good substitutes for it, and when persons randomized into a program drop out to pursue better alternatives. Using data from an experimental evaluation of a classroom training program, we document the empirical importance of control group substitution and treatment group dropping out. Evidence that one program is ineffective relative to close substitutes is not evidence that the type of service provided by all of the programs is ineffective, although that is the way experimental evidence is often interpreted.

Suggested Citation

  • James Heckman & Neil Hohmann & Jeffrey Smith & Michael Khoo, 2000. "Substitution and Dropout Bias in Social Experiments: A Study of an Influential Social Experiment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 115(2), pages 651-694.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:qjecon:v:115:y:2000:i:2:p:651-694.
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