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Regression Discontinuity Inference with Specification Error

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  • David S. Lee
  • David Card

Abstract

A regression discontinuity (RD) research design is appropriate for program evaluation problems in which treatment status (or the probability of treatment) depends on whether an observed covariate exceeds a fixed threshold. In many applications the treatment-determining covariate is discrete. This makes it impossible to compare outcomes for observations "just above" and "just below" the treatment threshold, and requires the researcher to choose a functional form for the relationship between the treatment variable and the outcomes of interest. We propose a simple econometric procedure to account for uncertainty in the choice of functional form for RD designs with discrete support. In particular, we model deviations of the true regression function from a given approximating function -- the specification errors -- as random. Conventional standard errors ignore the group structure induced by specification errors and tend to overstate the precision of the estimated program impacts. The proposed inference procedure that allows for specification error also has a natural interpretation within a Bayesian framework.

Suggested Citation

  • David S. Lee & David Card, 2006. "Regression Discontinuity Inference with Specification Error," NBER Technical Working Papers 0322, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberte:0322
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    6. Hahn, Jinyong & Todd, Petra & Van der Klaauw, Wilbert, 2001. "Identification and Estimation of Treatment Effects with a Regression-Discontinuity Design," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 69(1), pages 201-209, January.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C1 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods and Methodology: General
    • C5 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric Modeling
    • J0 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General

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