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The Distinction between Dictatorial and Incentive Policy Interventions and its Implication for IV Estimation


  • Belzil, Christian

    () (Ecole Polytechnique, Paris)

  • Hansen, Jörgen

    () (Concordia University)


We investigate if, and under which conditions, the distinction between dictatorial and incentive-based policy interventions affects the capacity of Instrument Variable (IV) methods to estimate the relevant treatment effect parameter of an outcome equation. The analysis is set in a non-trivial framework, in which the right-hand side variable of interest is affected by selectivity, and the error term is driven by a sequence of unobserved life-cycle endogenous choices. We show that, for a wide class of outcome equations, incentive-based policies may be designed so to generate a sufficient degree of post-intervention randomization (a lesser degree of selection on individual endowments among the sub-population affected). This helps the instrument to fulfill the orthogonality condition. However, for a same class of outcome equation, dictatorial policies that enforce minimum consumption cannot meet this condition. We illustrate these concepts within a calibrated dynamic life cycle model of human capital accumulation, and focus on the estimation of the returns to schooling using instruments generated from mandatory schooling reforms and education subsidies. We show how the nature of the skill accumulation process (substitutability vs complementarity) may play a fundamental role in interpreting IV estimates of the returns to schooling.

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  • Belzil, Christian & Hansen, Jörgen, 2010. "The Distinction between Dictatorial and Incentive Policy Interventions and its Implication for IV Estimation," IZA Discussion Papers 4835, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp4835

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Keane, Michael P., 2010. "Structural vs. atheoretic approaches to econometrics," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 156(1), pages 3-20, May.
    2. James J. Heckman & Sergio Urzua & Edward Vytlacil, 2006. "Understanding Instrumental Variables in Models with Essential Heterogeneity," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 88(3), pages 389-432, August.
    3. Belzil, Christian & Hansen, Jorgen, 2007. "A structural analysis of the correlated random coefficient wage regression model," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 140(2), pages 827-848, October.
    4. Stephen V. Cameron & Christopher Taber, 2004. "Estimation of Educational Borrowing Constraints Using Returns to Schooling," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(1), pages 132-182, February.
    5. Flavio Cunha & James J. Heckman & Susanne M. Schennach, 2010. "Estimating the Technology of Cognitive and Noncognitive Skill Formation," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 78(3), pages 883-931, May.
    6. James J. Heckman & Edward Vytlacil, 2005. "Structural Equations, Treatment Effects, and Econometric Policy Evaluation," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 73(3), pages 669-738, May.
    7. Flavio Cunha & James Heckman & Salvador Navarro, 2005. "Separating uncertainty from heterogeneity in life cycle earnings," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 57(2), pages 191-261, April.
    8. James Heckman & Lance Lochner & Christopher Taber, 1998. "Explaining Rising Wage Inequality: Explanations With A Dynamic General Equilibrium Model of Labor Earnings With Heterogeneous Agents," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 1(1), pages 1-58, January.
    9. Belzil, Christian, 2007. "The return to schooling in structural dynamic models: a survey," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 51(5), pages 1059-1105, July.
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    11. Paul J. Devereux & Robert A. Hart, 2010. "Forced to be Rich? Returns to Compulsory Schooling in Britain," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 120(549), pages 1345-1364, December.
    12. Christian Belzil, 2008. "Testing the Specification of the Mincer Wage Equation," Annals of Economics and Statistics, GENES, issue 91-92, pages 427-451.
    13. Yoram Ben-Porath, 1967. "The Production of Human Capital and the Life Cycle of Earnings," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 75, pages 352-352.
    14. Keane, Michael P & Wolpin, Kenneth I, 1997. "The Career Decisions of Young Men," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(3), pages 473-522, June.
    15. Imbens, Guido W & Angrist, Joshua D, 1994. "Identification and Estimation of Local Average Treatment Effects," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 62(2), pages 467-475, March.
    16. James Heckman, 1997. "Instrumental Variables: A Study of Implicit Behavioral Assumptions Used in Making Program Evaluations," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 32(3), pages 441-462.
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    Cited by:

    1. Christian Belzil & Jörgen Hansen, 2012. "Characterizing the Instrumental Variable Identifying Assumption as Sample Selection Conditions," Working Papers hal-00753539, HAL.
    2. Belzil, Christian & Hansen, Jörgen & Liu, Xingfei, 2011. "Dynamic Skill Accumulation, Comparative Advantages, Compulsory Schooling, and Earnings," IZA Discussion Papers 6167, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

    More about this item


    returns to schooling; instrumental variable methods; dynamic discrete choice; dynamic programming; local average treatment effects;

    JEL classification:

    • B4 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Economic Methodology
    • C1 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods and Methodology: General
    • C3 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Multiple or Simultaneous Equation Models; Multiple Variables

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