IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Sampling‐Based versus Design‐Based Uncertainty in Regression Analysis


  • Alberto Abadie
  • Susan Athey
  • Guido W. Imbens
  • Jeffrey M. Wooldridge


Consider a researcher estimating the parameters of a regression function based on data for all 50 states in the United States or on data for all visits to a website. What is the interpretation of the estimated parameters and the standard errors? In practice, researchers typically assume that the sample is randomly drawn from a large population of interest and report standard errors that are designed to capture sampling variation. This is common even in applications where it is difficult to articulate what that population of interest is, and how it differs from the sample. In this article, we explore an alternative approach to inference, which is partly design‐based. In a design‐based setting, the values of some of the regressors can be manipulated, perhaps through a policy intervention. Design‐based uncertainty emanates from lack of knowledge about the values that the regression outcome would have taken under alternative interventions. We derive standard errors that account for design‐based uncertainty instead of, or in addition to, sampling‐based uncertainty. We show that our standard errors in general are smaller than the usual infinite‐population sampling‐based standard errors and provide conditions under which they coincide.

Suggested Citation

  • Alberto Abadie & Susan Athey & Guido W. Imbens & Jeffrey M. Wooldridge, 2020. "Sampling‐Based versus Design‐Based Uncertainty in Regression Analysis," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 88(1), pages 265-296, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:emetrp:v:88:y:2020:i:1:p:265-296
    DOI: 10.3982/ECTA12675

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    More about this item


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:wly:emetrp:v:88:y:2020:i:1:p:265-296. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Wiley Content Delivery). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.