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Matching the gold standard: Comparing experimental and non-experimental evaluation techniques for a geographically targeted program

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  • Sudhanshu Handa
  • John Maluccio

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Abstract

We compare non-experimental impact estimates based on matching methods with those from a randomized evaluation to determine whether the non-experimental approach can “match” the so-called gold standard. The social experiment we use was carried out to evaluate a geographically targeted conditional cash transfer antipoverty program in Nicaragua. The outcomes we assess include several components of household expenditure and a variety of children’s health outcomes including breast feeding, vaccinations, and morbidity. We find that using each of the following improves performance of matching for these outcomes: 1) geographically proximate comparison samples; 2) stringent common support requirements; and 3) both geographic- and household-level matching variables. Even for a geographically targeted program, in which the selection is at the geographic-, rather than at the individual- or household-level, and in which it is not possible to find comparison individuals or households in the program locales, matching can perform reasonably well. The results also suggest that the techniques may be more promising for evaluating the more easily measured individual-level binary outcomes, than for outcomes that are more difficult to measure, such as expenditure.

Suggested Citation

  • Sudhanshu Handa & John Maluccio, 2008. "Matching the gold standard: Comparing experimental and non-experimental evaluation techniques for a geographically targeted program," Middlebury College Working Paper Series 0813, Middlebury College, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:mdl:mdlpap:0813
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Mathenge, Mary K. & Smale, Melinda & Olwande, John, 2012. "The Impact of Maize Hybrids on Income, Poverty, and Inequality among Smallholder Farmers in Kenya," Working Papers 202591, Egerton University, Tegemeo Institute of Agricultural Policy and Development.
    2. Henrik Hansen & Ninja Ritter Klejnstrup & Ole Winckler Andersen, 2011. "A Comparison of Model-based and Design-based Impact Evaluations of Interventions in Developing Countries," IFRO Working Paper 2011/16, University of Copenhagen, Department of Food and Resource Economics.
    3. Richard de Groot & Sudhanshu Handa & Mike Park & Robert D. Osei & Isaac Osei-Akoto & Luigi Peter Ragno & Garima Bhalla, 2015. "Heterogeneous impacts of an unconditioal cash transfer programme on schooling: evidence from the Ghana LEAP programme," Papers inwopa793, Innocenti Working Papers.
    4. Smith, Lisa C. & Khan, Faheem & Frankenberger, Timothy R. & Wadud, A.K.M. Abdul, 2013. "Admissible Evidence in the Court of Development Evaluation? The Impact of CARE’s SHOUHARDO Project on Child Stunting in Bangladesh," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 196-216.
    5. Ferraro, Paul J. & Miranda, Juan José, 2014. "The performance of non-experimental designs in the evaluation of environmental programs: A design-replication study using a large-scale randomized experiment as a benchmark," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 107(PA), pages 344-365.
    6. Mathenge, Mary K. & Smale, Melinda & Olwande, John, 2012. "The Impact of Maize Hybrids on Income, Poverty, and Inequality among Smallholder Farmers in Kenya," Food Security International Development Working Papers 146931, Michigan State University, Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics.
    7. Bruno Martorano & Sudhanshu Handa & Carolyn Halpern & Harsha Thirumurthy, 2014. "Subjective Well-being, Risk Perceptions and Time Discounting: Evidence from a large-scale cash transfer programme," Papers inwopa717, Innocenti Working Papers.

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