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Moving the Goalposts: Addressing Limited Overlap in the Estimation of Average Treatment Effects by Changing the Estimand

  • Richard K. Crump
  • V. Joseph Hotz
  • Guido W. Imbens
  • Oscar A. Mitnik

Estimation of average treatment effects under unconfoundedness or exogenous 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 such 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].

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/t0330.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Technical Working Papers with number 0330.

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Date of creation: Oct 2006
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberte:0330
Note: TWP
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  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 604-20, September.
  2. 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.
  3. Richard Blundell & Mónica Costa Dias, 2008. "Alternative Approaches to Evaluation in Empirical Microeconomics," CEF.UP Working Papers 0805, Universidade do Porto, Faculdade de Economia do Porto.
  4. Richard K. Crump & V. Joseph Hotz & Guido W. Imbens & Oscar A. Mitnik, 2006. "Nonparametric Tests for Treatment Effect Heterogeneity," Working Papers 0609, University of Miami, Department of Economics.
  5. Xiaohong Chen & Han Hong & Alessandro Tarozzi, 2008. "Semiparametric Efficiency in GMM Models of Nonclassical Measurement Errors, Missing Data and Treatment Effects," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1644, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  6. Heckman, James J & Ichimura, Hidehiko & Todd, Petra E, 1997. "Matching as an Econometric Evaluation Estimator: Evidence from Evaluating a Job Training Programme," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 64(4), pages 605-54, October.
  7. Newey, Whitney K., 1994. "Kernel Estimation of Partial Means and a General Variance Estimator," Econometric Theory, Cambridge University Press, vol. 10(02), pages 1-21, June.
  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. Michael Lechner, 2002. "Some practical issues in the evaluation of heterogeneous labour market programmes by matching methods," Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A, Royal Statistical Society, vol. 165(1), pages 59-82.
  10. Guido W. Imbens & Whitney Newey & Geert Ridder, 2006. "Mean-squared-error Calculations for Average Treatment Effects," IEPR Working Papers 06.57, Institute of Economic Policy Research (IEPR).
  11. Robinson, Peter M, 1988. "Root- N-Consistent Semiparametric Regression," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 56(4), pages 931-54, July.
  12. Guido W. Imbens, 2003. "Nonparametric Estimation of Average Treatment Effects under Exogeneity: A Review," NBER Technical Working Papers 0294, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Heckman, James J & Ichimura, Hidehiko & Todd, Petra, 1998. "Matching as an Econometric Evaluation Estimator," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 65(2), pages 261-94, April.
  14. 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.
  15. Crump, Richard K. & Hotz, V. Joseph & Imbens, Guido W. & Mitnik, Oscar A., 2006. "Moving the Goalposts: Addressing Limited Overlap in Estimation of Average Treatment Effects by Changing the Estimand," IZA Discussion Papers 2347, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  16. 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.
  17. repec:cup:etheor:v:10:y:1994:i:2:p:233-53 is not listed on IDEAS
  18. Joshua D. Angrist, 1998. "Estimating the Labor Market Impact of Voluntary Military Service Using Social Security Data on Military Applicants," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 66(2), pages 249-288, March.
  19. 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, 07.
  20. Joshua D. Angrist & Guido W. Imbens, 1995. "Identification and Estimation of Local Average Treatment Effects," NBER Technical Working Papers 0118, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  21. Michael Lechner, 2002. "Program Heterogeneity And Propensity Score Matching: An Application To The Evaluation Of Active Labor Market Policies," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 84(2), pages 205-220, May.
  22. 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, 01.
  23. Guildo W. Imbens, 2003. "Sensitivity to Exogeneity Assumptions in Program Evaluation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(2), pages 126-132, May.
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