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Four Parameters of Interest in the Evaluation of Social Programs

Author

Listed:
  • James Heckman

    () (Department of Economics, University of Chicago)

  • Justin L. Tobias

    () (Department of Economics, University of California-Irvine)

  • Edward Vytlacil

    () (Department of Economics, Stanford University)

Abstract

This paper reviews four treatment parameters that have become commonly used in the program evaluation literature: the average treatment effect, the effect of treatment on the treated, the local average treatment effect, and the marginal treatment effect. We derive simply computed closed-form expressions for these treatment parameters in a latent variable framework with Gaussian error terms. These parameters can be estimated using nothing more than output from a standard two-step procedure. We also briefly describe recent work that seeks to go beyond mean effects and estimate the distributions associated with various outcome gains. The techniques presented in the paper are applied to estimate the return to some form of college education for various populations using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth.

Suggested Citation

  • James Heckman & Justin L. Tobias & Edward Vytlacil, 2001. "Four Parameters of Interest in the Evaluation of Social Programs," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 68(2), pages 210-223, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:sej:ancoec:v:68:2:y:2001:p:210-223
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