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Empirical Strategies in Economics: Illuminating the Path from Cause to Effect

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  • Joshua Angrist

Abstract

The view that empirical strategies in economics should be transparent and credible now goes almost without saying. The local average treatment effects (LATE) framework for causal inference helped make this so. The LATE theorem tells us for whom particular instrumental variables (IV) and regression discontinuity estimates are valid. This lecture uses several empirical examples, mostly involving charter and exam schools, to highlight the value of LATE. A surprising exclusion restriction, an assumption central to the LATE interpretation of IV estimates, is shown to explain why enrollment at Chicago exam schools reduces student achievement. I also make two broader points: IV exclusion restrictions formalize commitment to clear and consistent explanations of reduced-form causal effects; compelling applications demonstrate the power of simple empirical strategies to generate new causal knowledge.

Suggested Citation

  • Joshua Angrist, 2022. "Empirical Strategies in Economics: Illuminating the Path from Cause to Effect," NBER Working Papers 29726, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:29726
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • B23 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought since 1925 - - - Econometrics; Quantitative and Mathematical Studies
    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • I28 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Government Policy
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply

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