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Choosing Among Alternative Nonexperimental Methods for Estimating the Impact of Social Programs: The Case of Manpower Training

  • James J. Heckman

The recent literature on evaluating manpower training programs demonstrates that alternative nonexperimental estimators of the same program produce a array of estimates of program impact. These findings have led to the call for experiments to be used to perform credible program evaluations. Missing in all of the recent pessimistic analyses of nonexperimental methods is any systematic discussion of how to choose among competing estimators. This paper explores the value of simple specification tests in selecting an appropriate nonexperimental estimator. A reanalysis of the National Supported Work Demonstration Data previously analyzed by proponents of social experiments reveals that a simple testing procedure eliminates the range of nonexperimental estimators that are at variance with the experimental estimates of program impact.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w2861.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 2861.

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Date of creation: Feb 1989
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Heckman, James J. and V. Joseph Hotz. "Choosing Among Alternative Nonexperimental Methods For Estimating The Impact Of Social Programs: The Case Of Manpower Training: Rejoinder," Journal of the American Statistical Association, 1989, v84(408), 878-880.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:2861
Note: LS
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  1. Orley Ashenfelter & David Card, 1984. "Using the Longitudinal Structure of Earnings to Estimate the Effect of Training Programs," Working Papers 554, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  2. Robert J. LaLonde, 2003. "Employment and Training Programs," NBER Chapters, in: Means-Tested Transfer Programs in the United States, pages 517-586 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. James J. Heckman & V. Joseph Hotz & Marcelo Dabos, 1987. "Do We Need Experimental Data To Evaluate the Impact of Manpower Training On Earnings?," Evaluation Review, , vol. 11(4), pages 395-427, August.
  4. 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.
  5. Burt S. Barnow, 1987. "The Impact of CETA Programs on Earnings: A Review of the Literature," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 22(2), pages 157-193.
  6. Gary Burtless & Larry L. Orr, 1986. "Are Classical Experiments Needed for Manpower Policy," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 21(4), pages 606-639.
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