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Dealing with Limited Overlap in Estimation of Average Treatment Effects

Author

Listed:
  • Richard K. Crump

    () (Department of Economics, University of California at Berekely)

  • V. Joseph Hotz

    () (Department of Economics, University of California at Lost Angeles)

  • Guido W. Imbens

    () (Department of Economics, Harvard University)

  • Oscar A. Mitnik

    () (Department of Economics, University of Miami)

Abstract

Estimation of average treatment effects under unconfounded or ignorable treatment assignment is often hampered by lack of overlap in the covariate distributions. This lack of overlap can lead to imprecise estimates and can make commonly used estimators sensitive to the choice of specification. In such cases researchers have often used informal methods for trimming the sample. In this paper we develop a systematic approach to addressing lack of overlap. We characterize optimal subsamples for which the average treatment effect can be estimated most precisely, as well as optimally weighted average treatment effects. Under some conditions the optimal selection rules depend solely on the propensity score. For a wide range of distributions a good approximation to the optimal rule is provided by the simple selection rule to drop all units with estimated propensity scores outside the range [0.1, 0.9].

Suggested Citation

  • Richard K. Crump & V. Joseph Hotz & Guido W. Imbens & Oscar A. Mitnik, 2004. "Dealing with Limited Overlap in Estimation of Average Treatment Effects," Working Papers 0716, University of Miami, Department of Economics, revised 12 Jun 2007.
  • Handle: RePEc:mia:wpaper:0716
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    File URL: http://moya.bus.miami.edu/~omitnik/PDF_Documents/Limited_overlap.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. LaLonde, Robert J, 1986. "Evaluating the Econometric Evaluations of Training Programs with Experimental Data," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(4), pages 604-620, September.
    2. Richard K. Crump & V. Joseph Hotz & Guido W. Imbens & Oscar A. Mitnik, 2008. "Nonparametric Tests for Treatment Effect Heterogeneity," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 90(3), pages 389-405, August.
    3. A. Smith, Jeffrey & E. Todd, Petra, 2005. "Does matching overcome LaLonde's critique of nonexperimental estimators?," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 125(1-2), pages 305-353.
    4. James J. Heckman & Hidehiko Ichimura & Petra E. Todd, 1997. "Matching As An Econometric Evaluation Estimator: Evidence from Evaluating a Job Training Programme," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 64(4), pages 605-654.
    5. Richard Blundell & Monica Costa Dias, 2009. "Alternative Approaches to Evaluation in Empirical Microeconomics," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 44(3).
    6. Richard K. Crump & V. Joseph Hotz & Guido W. Imbens & Oscar A. Mitnik, 2006. "Moving the Goalposts: Addressing Limited Overlap in the Estimation of Average Treatment Effects by Changing the Estimand," NBER Technical Working Papers 0330, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Keisuke Hirano & Guido W. Imbens & Geert Ridder, 2003. "Efficient Estimation of Average Treatment Effects Using the Estimated Propensity Score," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 71(4), pages 1161-1189, July.
    8. Rajeev H. Dehejia & Sadek Wahba, 1998. "Causal Effects in Non-Experimental Studies: Re-Evaluating the Evaluation of Training Programs," NBER Working Papers 6586, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. 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.
    10. Jinyong Hahn, 1998. "On the Role of the Propensity Score in Efficient Semiparametric Estimation of Average Treatment Effects," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 66(2), pages 315-332, March.
    11. James J. Heckman & Hidehiko Ichimura & Petra Todd, 1998. "Matching As An Econometric Evaluation Estimator," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 65(2), pages 261-294.
    12. Alberto Abadie & Guido W. Imbens, 2006. "Large Sample Properties of Matching Estimators for Average Treatment Effects," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 74(1), pages 235-267, January.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Average Treatment Effects; Causality; Unconfoundness; Overlap; Treatment Effect Heterogeneity;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C14 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods and Methodology: General - - - Semiparametric and Nonparametric Methods: General
    • C21 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Single Equation Models; Single Variables - - - Cross-Sectional Models; Spatial Models; Treatment Effect Models
    • C52 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric Modeling - - - Model Evaluation, Validation, and Selection

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