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Modified Causal Forests for Estimating Heterogeneous Causal Effects

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  • Lechner, Michael

    (University of St. Gallen)

Abstract

Uncovering the heterogeneity of causal effects of policies and business decisions at various levels of granularity provides substantial value to decision makers. This paper develops new estimation and inference procedures for multiple treatment models in a selection-on-observables frame-work by modifying the Causal Forest approach suggested by Wager and Athey (2018). The new estimators have desirable theoretical and computational properties for various aggregation levels of the causal effects. An Empirical Monte Carlo study shows that they may outperform previously suggested estimators. Inference tends to be accurate for effects relating to larger groups and conservative for effects relating to fine levels of granularity. An application to the evaluation of an active labour market programme shows the value of the new methods for applied research.

Suggested Citation

  • Lechner, Michael, 2018. "Modified Causal Forests for Estimating Heterogeneous Causal Effects," IZA Discussion Papers 12040, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp12040
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Arun Advani & Tymon Sloczynski, 2013. "Mostly harmless simulations? On the internal validity of empirical Monte Carlo studies," CeMMAP working papers CWP64/13, Centre for Microdata Methods and Practice, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
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    3. 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.
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    12. Anthony Strittmatter, 2018. "What Is the Value Added by Using Causal Machine Learning Methods in a Welfare Experiment Evaluation?," Papers 1812.06533, arXiv.org, revised Dec 2021.
    13. Michael Knaus & Michael Lechner & Anthony Strittmatter, 2017. "Heterogeneous Employment Effects of Job Search Programmes: A Machine Learning Approach," Papers 1709.10279, arXiv.org, revised May 2018.
    14. Lu Tian & Ash A. Alizadeh & Andrew J. Gentles & Robert Tibshirani, 2014. "A Simple Method for Estimating Interactions Between a Treatment and a Large Number of Covariates," Journal of the American Statistical Association, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 109(508), pages 1517-1532, December.
    15. Martin Huber & Michael Lechner & Giovanni Mellace, 2017. "Why Do Tougher Caseworkers Increase Employment? The Role of Program Assignment as a Causal Mechanism," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 99(1), pages 180-183, March.
    16. Jonathan M.V. Davis & Sara B. Heller, 2017. "Using Causal Forests to Predict Treatment Heterogeneity: An Application to Summer Jobs," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 107(5), pages 546-550, May.
    17. Guido W. Imbens, 2004. "Nonparametric Estimation of Average Treatment Effects Under Exogeneity: A Review," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 86(1), pages 4-29, February.
    18. Vikas Ramachandra, 2018. "Deep Learning for Causal Inference," Papers 1803.00149, arXiv.org.
    19. Jason Abrevaya & Yu-Chin Hsu & Robert P. Lieli, 2015. "Estimating Conditional Average Treatment Effects," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 33(4), pages 485-505, October.
    20. A. Belloni & V. Chernozhukov & I. Fernández‐Val & C. Hansen, 2017. "Program Evaluation and Causal Inference With High‐Dimensional Data," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 85, pages 233-298, January.
    21. Huber, Martin & Lechner, Michael & Wunsch, Conny, 2013. "The performance of estimators based on the propensity score," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 175(1), pages 1-21.
    22. Matt Taddy & Matt Gardner & Liyun Chen & David Draper, 2016. "A Nonparametric Bayesian Analysis of Heterogenous Treatment Effects in Digital Experimentation," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 34(4), pages 661-672, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. Elena Denisova-Schmidt & Martin Huber & Elvira Leontyeva & Anna Solovyeva, 2021. "Combining experimental evidence with machine learning to assess anti-corruption educational campaigns among Russian university students," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 60(4), pages 1661-1684, April.
    2. Michael Zimmert & Michael Lechner, 2019. "Nonparametric estimation of causal heterogeneity under high-dimensional confounding," Papers 1908.08779, arXiv.org.
    3. Bart Cockx & Michael Lechner & Joost Bollens, 2019. "Priority to unemployed immigrants? A causal machine learning evaluation of training in Belgium," Papers 1912.12864, arXiv.org, revised May 2020.
    4. Michael C. Knaus, 2020. "Double Machine Learning based Program Evaluation under Unconfoundedness," Papers 2003.03191, arXiv.org, revised Oct 2021.
    5. Boller, Daniel & Lechner, Michael & Okasa, Gabriel, 2021. "The Effect of Sport in Online Dating: Evidence from Causal Machine Learning," Economics Working Paper Series 2104, University of St. Gallen, School of Economics and Political Science.
    6. Daniel Goller & Tamara Harrer & Michael Lechner & Joachim Wolff, 2021. "Active labour market policies for the long-term unemployed: New evidence from causal machine learning," Papers 2106.10141, arXiv.org.
    7. Lechner, Michael & Okasa, Gabriel, 2019. "Random Forest Estimation of the Ordered Choice Model," Economics Working Paper Series 1908, University of St. Gallen, School of Economics and Political Science.
    8. Faltings, Richard & Krumer, Alex & Lechner, Michael, 2019. "Rot-Jaune-Verde. Language and Favoritism: Evidence from Swiss Soccer," Economics Working Paper Series 1915, University of St. Gallen, School of Economics and Political Science.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    causal machine learning; statistical learning; average treatment effects; conditional average treatment effects; multiple treatments; selection-on-observable; causal forests;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C21 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Single Equation Models; Single Variables - - - Cross-Sectional Models; Spatial Models; Treatment Effect Models
    • J68 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Public Policy

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