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Estimation and Inference in Social Experiments


  • Christopher Ferrall

    (Queen's University)


This paper develops a framework for analyzing the outcome of experiments carried out on forward-looking subjects. Natural experiments, unexpected policy changes, and true experiments are all included in the framework as special cases. These concepts are defined in conjunction with explicit notions of controlled and randomized experiments. The persistent issues of sample-selection bias and heterogeneous impacts that surround interpretations of experiments are endogenous to the model. Special attention is given to interpreting empirical impact of the treatment within the model. The environments in which estimated mean impacts correspond to mean subjective impacts are specified, and they are found to be a small, uninteresting subset of environments contained within the framework.

Suggested Citation

  • Christopher Ferrall, 2002. "Estimation and Inference in Social Experiments," General Economics and Teaching 0209001, EconWPA.
  • Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpgt:0209001
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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Kenneth I. Wolpin & Mark R. Rosenzweig, 2000. "Natural "Natural Experiments" in Economics," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 38(4), pages 827-874, December.
    2. Davidson, Carl & Woodbury, Stephen A, 1993. "The Displacement Effect of Reemployment Bonus Programs," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 11(4), pages 575-605, October.
    3. Woodbury, Stephen A & Spiegelman, Robert G, 1987. "Bonuses to Workers and Employers to Reduce Unemployment: Randomized Trials in Illinois," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(4), pages 513-530, September.
    4. Michael P. Keane & Kenneth I. Wolpin, 2002. "Estimating Welfare Effects Consistent with Forward-Looking Behavior. Part I: Lessons from a Simulation Exercise," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 37(3), pages 570-599.
    5. Angrist, Joshua D, 1990. "Lifetime Earnings and the Vietnam Era Draft Lottery: Evidence from Social Security Administrative Records," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(3), pages 313-336, June.
    6. Christopher Ferrall, 2012. "Explaining and Forecasting Results of the Self-sufficiency Project," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 79(4), pages 1495-1526.
    7. Pencavel, John, 1987. "Labor supply of men: A survey," Handbook of Labor Economics,in: O. Ashenfelter & R. Layard (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 1, pages 3-102 Elsevier.
    8. Zvi Eckstein & Kenneth I. Wolpin, 1989. "The Specification and Estimation of Dynamic Stochastic Discrete Choice Models: A Survey," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 24(4), pages 562-598.
    9. Gary Burtless, 1995. "The Case for Randomized Field Trials in Economic and Policy Research," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(2), pages 63-84, Spring.
    10. Hidehiko Ichimura & Christopher R. Taber, 2000. "Direct Estimation of Policy Impacts," NBER Technical Working Papers 0254, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Bruce D. Meyer, 1995. "Lessons from the U.S. Unemployment Insurance Experiments," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 33(1), pages 91-131, March.
    12. V. Joseph Hotz & Guido W. Imbens & Julie H. Mortimer, 1999. "Predicting the Efficacy of Future Training Programs Using Past Experiences," NBER Technical Working Papers 0238, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Christopher Ferrall, 2003. "Solving Finite Mixture Models in Parallel," Computational Economics 0303003, EconWPA.
    14. 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.
    15. Victor Aguirregabiria & Pedro Mira, 2002. "Swapping the Nested Fixed Point Algorithm: A Class of Estimators for Discrete Markov Decision Models," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(4), pages 1519-1543, July.
    16. Zvi Eckstein & Kenneth I. Wolpin, 1999. "Why Youths Drop Out of High School: The Impact of Preferences, Opportunities, and Abilities," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 67(6), pages 1295-1340, November.
    17. Shearer, Bruce, 2001. "Piece Rates, Fixed Wages and Incentives: Evidence from a Field Experiment," Cahiers de recherche 0101, Université Laval - Département d'économique.
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    Cited by:

    1. Abbring, Jaap H & van den Berg, Gerard J, 2005. "Social experiments and intrumental variables with duration outcomes," Working Paper Series 2005:11, IFAU - Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy.
    2. Christopher Ferrall, 2012. "Explaining and Forecasting Results of the Self-sufficiency Project," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 79(4), pages 1495-1526.

    More about this item


    Treatment Effects; Impact Analysis; Dynamic Programming; Policy Experiments;

    JEL classification:

    • C1 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods and Methodology: General
    • C9 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments

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