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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
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  1. 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.
  2. Richard K. Crump & V. Joseph Hotz & Guido W. Imbens & Oscar A. Mitnik, 2006. "Moving the Goalposts: Addressing Limited Overlap in Estimation of Average Treatment Effects by Changing the Estimand," Working Papers 0608, University of Miami, Department of Economics.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. repec:cup:etheor:v:10:y:1994:i:2:p:233-53 is not listed on IDEAS
  9. Guido Imbens, 2000. "Efficient Estimation of Average Treatment Effects Using the Estimated Propensity Score," Econometric Society World Congress 2000 Contributed Papers 1166, Econometric Society.
  10. Michael Lechner, 2005. "Some practical issues in the evaluation of heterogeneous labour market programmes by matching methods," Labor and Demography 0505006, EconWPA.
  11. Imbens, Guido W & Angrist, Joshua D, 1994. "Identification and Estimation of Local Average Treatment Effects," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 62(2), pages 467-75, March.
  12. 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.
  13. 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).
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. Jeffrey Smith & Petra Todd, 2003. "Does Matching Overcome Lalonde's Critique of Nonexperimental Estimators?," University of Western Ontario, Centre for Human Capital and Productivity (CHCP) Working Papers 20035, University of Western Ontario, Centre for Human Capital and Productivity (CHCP).
  18. 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.
  19. Guildo W. Imbens, 2003. "Sensitivity to Exogeneity Assumptions in Program Evaluation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(2), pages 126-132, May.
  20. James Heckman & Hidehiko Ichimura & Jeffrey Smith & Petra Todd, 1998. "Characterizing Selection Bias Using Experimental Data," NBER Working Papers 6699, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  21. 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.
  22. Robinson, Peter M, 1988. "Root- N-Consistent Semiparametric Regression," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 56(4), pages 931-54, July.
  23. 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.
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