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Dealing with randomisation bias in a social experiment exploiting the randomisation itself: the case of ERA

  • Barbara Sianesi

    ()

    (Institute for Fiscal Studies and IFS)

We highlight the importance of randomisation bias, a situation where the process of participation in a social experiment has been affected by randomisation per se. We illustrate how this has happened in the case of the UK Employment Retention and Advancement (ERA) experiment, in which over one quarter of the eligible population was not represented. Our objective is to quantify the impact that the ERA eligible population would have experienced under ERA, and to assess how this impact relates to the experimental impact estimated on the potentially selected subgroup of study participants. We show that the typical matching assumption required to identify the average treatment effect of interest is made up of two parts. One part remains testable under the experiment even in the presence of randomisation bias, and offers a way to correct the non-experimental estimates should they fail to pass the test. The other part rests on what we argue is a very weak assumption, at least in the case of ERA. We implement these ideas to the ERA program and show the power of this strategy. Further exploiting the experiment we assess the validity in our application of the claim often made in the literature that knowledge of long and detailed labour market histories can control for most selection bias in the evaluation of labour market interventions. Finally, for the case of survey-based outcomes, we develop a reweighting estimator which takes account of both non-participation and non-response.

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Paper provided by Institute for Fiscal Studies in its series IFS Working Papers with number W13/15.

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Date of creation: Jul 2013
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Handle: RePEc:ifs:ifsewp:13/15
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  1. Markus Froelich, 2002. "Programme Evaluation with Multiple Treatments," University of St. Gallen Department of Economics working paper series 2002 2002-17, Department of Economics, University of St. Gallen.
  2. Joseph Hotz, V. & Imbens, Guido W. & Mortimer, Julie H., 2005. "Predicting the efficacy of future training programs using past experiences at other locations," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 125(1-2), pages 241-270.
  3. Lechner, Michael & Smith, Jeffrey, 2007. "What is the value added by caseworkers?," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(2), pages 135-151, April.
  4. James Heckman & Hidehiko Ichimura & Jeffrey Smith & Petra Todd, 1998. "Characterizing Selection Bias Using Experimental Data," NBER Working Papers 6699, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. James J. Heckman & Jeffrey A. Smith, 1995. "Assessing the Case for Social Experiments," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(2), pages 85-110, Spring.
  6. 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, MIT Press, vol. 115(2), pages 651-694, May.
  7. Dubin, Jeffrey A. & Rivers, Douglas, 1993. "Experimental estimates of the impact of wage subsidies," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 56(1-2), pages 219-242, March.
  8. Charles F. Manski, 1996. "Learning about Treatment Effects from Experiments with Random Assignment of Treatments," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 31(4), pages 709-733.
  9. Heckman, James J & Smith, Jeffrey A, 1999. "The Pre-programme Earnings Dip and the Determinants of Participation in a Social Programme. Implications for Simple Programme Evaluation Strategies," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 109(457), pages 313-48, July.
  10. David Card & Daniel Sullivan, 1987. "Measuring the Effect of Subsidized Training Programs on Movements In andOut of Employment," NBER Working Papers 2173, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Lechner, Michael & Wunsch, Conny, 2013. "Sensitivity of matching-based program evaluations to the availability of control variables," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(C), pages 111-121.
  12. Gary Burtless, 1995. "The Case for Randomized Field Trials in Economic and Policy Research," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(2), pages 63-84, Spring.
  13. Martin Huber, 2010. "Identification of average treatment effects in social experiments under different forms of attrition," University of St. Gallen Department of Economics working paper series 2010 2010-22, Department of Economics, University of St. Gallen.
  14. James J. Heckman & Jeffrey A. Smith, 1999. "The Pre-Program Earnings Dip and the Determinants of Participation in a Social Program: Implications for Simple Program Evaluation Strategies," NBER Working Papers 6983, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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