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Sample Selection Bias As a Specification Error (with an Application to the Estimation of Labor Supply Functions)

  • James J. Heckman

In this paper, I present a simple characterization of the sample selection bias problem that is also applicable to the conceptually distinct econometric problems that arise from truncated samples and from models with limited dependent variables. The problem of sample selection bias is fit within the conventional specification error framework of Griliches and Theil. A simple estimator is discussed that enables analysts to utilize ordinary regression methods to estimate models free of selection bias. The techniques discussed here are applied to re-estimate and test a model of female labor supply developed by the author. (1974). This paper is in three parts. In the first section, selection bias is presented within the specification error framework. In this section, general distributional assumptions are maintained. In section two, specific results are presented for the case of normal regression disturbances. Simple estimators are proposed and discussed. In the third section, empirical results are presented.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 0172.

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Date of creation: Mar 1977
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Heckman, James J. "Sample Bias As A Specification Error," Econometrica, 1979, v47(1), 153-162.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:0172
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  1. Rosen, Harvey S, 1976. "Taxes in a Labor Supply Model with Joint Wage-Hours Determination," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 44(3), pages 485-507, May.
  2. Reuben Gronau, 1974. "The Effect of Children on the Housewife's Value of Time," NBER Chapters, in: Economics of the Family: Marriage, Children, and Human Capital, pages 457-490 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Heckman, James J, 1974. "Shadow Prices, Market Wages, and Labor Supply," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 42(4), pages 679-94, July.
  4. Amemiya, Takeshi, 1974. "Multivariate Regression and Simultaneous Equation Models when the Dependent Variables Are Truncated Normal," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 42(6), pages 999-1012, November.
  5. Cragg, John G, 1971. "Some Statistical Models for Limited Dependent Variables with Application to the Demand for Durable Goods," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 39(5), pages 829-44, September.
  6. Gary S. Becker, 1974. "A Theory of Marriage: Part II," NBER Chapters, in: Marriage, Family, Human Capital, and Fertility, pages 11-26 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Lewis, H Gregg, 1974. "Comments on Selectivity Biases in Wage Comparisons," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(6), pages 1145-55, Nov.-Dec..
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