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Confounding and control in a multivariate system. An issue in causal attribution


  • RUSSO, Federica

    () (Dipartimento di Studi Umanistici, Università degli Studi di Ferrara, Italy)

  • MOUCHART, Michel

    () (Université catholique de Louvain, ISBA and CORE, Belgium)

  • WUNSCH, Guillaume

    () (Université catholique de Louvain, Demography, Belgium; Royal Academy of Sciences, Belgium)


It is widely agreed that, in establishing whether variable X causes variable Y, a third variable Z may confound the relation and thus hinder causal assessment. The solution developed within the ‘traditional’ framework is to control for any third variable, susceptible of confounding the relation between X and Y. This paper examines complex systems of variables, characterised by multiple causes and multiple effects. The paper advances the view that in such contexts confounding is a moot issue, under a suitable specification of the causal model. When networks of causal relations are considered, possible confounders are included in the appropriate causal paths from the causes to the outcome. The challenge for the model builder then amounts to developing a structural model that specifies the role of variables in each path, rather than just controlling for possible confounders.

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  • RUSSO, Federica & MOUCHART, Michel & WUNSCH, Guillaume, 2013. "Confounding and control in a multivariate system. An issue in causal attribution," CORE Discussion Papers 2013068, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  • Handle: RePEc:cor:louvco:2013068

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    6. Michel Mouchart & Federica Russo & Guillaume Wunsch, 2010. "Inferrig Causal Relations by Modelling Structure," Statistica, Department of Statistics, University of Bologna, vol. 70(4), pages 411-432.
    7. Roberto Impicciatore & Francesco Billari, 2010. "Secularization, union formation practices and marital stability: Evidence from Italy," Working Papers 026, "Carlo F. Dondena" Centre for Research on Social Dynamics (DONDENA), Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi.
    8. WANG, Kent & WANG, Shin-Huei & PAN, Zheyao, 2013. "Can federal reserve policy deviation explain response patterns of financial markets over time?," CORE Discussion Papers 2013029, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
    9. Guillaume Wunsch, 2007. "Confounding and control," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 16(4), pages 97-120, February.
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    causality; confounding; control; structural modelling;

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