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Average treatment effect estimation via random recursive partitioning


  • Giuseppe PORRO


  • Stefano Maria IACUS



A new matching method is proposed for the estimation of the average treatment effect of social policy interventions (e. g. , training programs or health care measures. Given an outcome variable, a treatment and a set of pre-treatment covariates, the method is based on the examination of random recursive partitions of the space of covariates using regression trees. A regression tree is grown either on the treated or on the untreated individuals {\it only} using as response variable a random permutation of the indexes 1,. . . ,n (n being the number of units involved), while the indexes for the other group are predicted using this tree. The procedure is replicated in order to rule out the effect of specific permutations. The average treatment effect is estimated in each tree by matching treated and untreated in the same terminal nodes. The final estimator of the average treatment effect is obtained by averaging on all the trees grown. The method does not require any specific model assumption apart from the tree's complexity, which does not affect the estimator though. We show that this method is either an instrument to check whether two samples can be matched (by any method) and, when this is feasible, to obtain reliable estimates of the average treatment effect. We further propose a graphical tool to inspect the quality of the match. The method has been applied to the National Supported Work Demonstration data, previously analyzed by Lalonde (1986) and others.

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  • Giuseppe PORRO & Stefano Maria IACUS, 2004. "Average treatment effect estimation via random recursive partitioning," Departmental Working Papers 2004-28, Department of Economics, Management and Quantitative Methods at Universit√† degli Studi di Milano.
  • Handle: RePEc:mil:wpdepa:2004-28

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    References listed on IDEAS

    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. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. Smith, Jeffrey & Todd, Petra, 2005. "Rejoinder," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 125(1-2), pages 365-375.
    5. 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.
    6. Rajeev H. Dehejia & Sadek Wahba, 2002. "Propensity Score-Matching Methods For Nonexperimental Causal Studies," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 84(1), pages 151-161, February.
    7. Dehejia, Rajeev, 2005. "Practical propensity score matching: a reply to Smith and Todd," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 125(1-2), pages 355-364.
    8. James Heckman & Hidehiko Ichimura & Jeffrey Smith & Petra Todd, 1998. "Characterizing Selection Bias Using Experimental Data," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 66(5), pages 1017-1098, September.
    9. 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.
    10. Sascha O. Becker & Andrea Ichino, 2002. "Estimation of average treatment effects based on propensity scores," Stata Journal, StataCorp LP, vol. 2(4), pages 358-377, November.
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    More about this item


    average treatment effect; recursive partitioning; matching estimators; observational studies; bias reduction;

    JEL classification:

    • C14 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods and Methodology: General - - - Semiparametric and Nonparametric Methods: General
    • C40 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods: Special Topics - - - General
    • C81 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Data Collection and Data Estimation Methodology; Computer Programs - - - Methodology for Collecting, Estimating, and Organizing Microeconomic Data; Data Access

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