Regression Discontinuity

Applying Propensity Score Matching
Methods in Institutional Research
Stephen L. DesJardins
Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education
School of Education
Professor, Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy
University of Michigan
CA AIR Conference Workshop
November 20, 2014
Organization of the Workshop
• Examine conceptual basis of nonexperimental methods
– This is a necessary but not sufficient condition for
conducting methodologically rigorous research
• Survey conceptual foundations of matching
methods, esp. PSM methods
• Provide & discuss Stata commands to
estimate PSM models
• Share references to readings & sources of
code to enhance post-workshop learning
Importance of Rigor in Research
• Systematically improving education policies,
programs, practices requires understanding
of “what works”
• Goal: Make causal statements
– Without doing so “it is difficult to accumulate a
knowledge base that has value for practice or
future study” (Schneider, 2007, p. 2).
• However, education research has lacked
rigor & relevance Quote
Why the Lack of Rigor?
• Often lack of clarity about the designs &
methods optimal for making causal claims
• Many researchers were not educated in the
application of these methods
• Many lack time to learn new methods; may
feel they are to complicated to learn
• Hard to create & sustain norms & common
discourse about what constitutes rigor
Policy Changes Driving Push Toward Rigor
• NCLB Act (2001): Included definition of
“scientifically-based” research & set aside
funds for studies consistent with definition
• Education Sciences Reform Act (2002)
replaced Office of Ed Research &
Improvement (OERI) with IES
• Funding from IES, NSF, & other federal
agencies tied to rigorous designs/methods
• Many reports focused on need to improve
the quality of education research
Cause and Effect
• In randomized control trials (RCTs) the
question is: What is effect of a specific
program or intervention?
• Summer Bridge program (intervention) may
cause an effect (improved college readiness)
• Shadish, Cook, & Campbell (2002): Rarely
know all the causes of effects or how they
relate to one another
– Need for controls in regression frameworks
Cause and Effect (cont’d)
• Holland (1986) notes that true causes hard to
determine unequivocally; seek to determine
probability that an effect will occur
• Allows opportunity to est. why some effects
occur in some situations but not in others
– Example: Completing higher levels of math
courses in HS may improve chances of finishing
college more for some students than for others
– Here we are measuring likelihood that cause led
to the effect; not “true” cause/effect
Determining Causation
• RCTs are the “gold standard” to determine
causal effects
• Pros: Reduce bias & spurious findings,
thereby improving knowledge of what works
• Cons: Ethics, external validity, cost, errors
that are also inherent in observational studies
– Measurement problems; “spillover” effects,
• Possibilities: Oversubscribed programs
(Living Learning Communities, UROP…)
The Logic of Causal Inference
• Need to distinguish between inference model
specifying cause/effect relation & statistical
methods determining strength of relation
• The inference model specifies the parameters
we want to estimate or test
• The statistical technique describes the
mathematical procedure(s) to test hypotheses
about whether a treatment produces an effect
A Common Causal Scenario
Observed or
(e.g., Treatment)
(e.g., Educational
The Counterfactual Framework
• Owing to Rubin (1974, 1977, 1978, 1980)
• Intuition: What would have happened if
individual exposed to a treatment was NOT
exposed or exposed to a different treatment?
• Causal effect: Difference between outcome
under treatment & outcome if individual
exposed to the control condition (no
treatment or other treatment)
• Formally:
di = Yit – Yic
The Fundamental Problem…
• …of causal inference is that if we observe Yit
we cannot simultaneously observe Yic
• Holland (1986) ID’d two solutions to this
problem: One scientific, one statistical
• Scientific: Expose i to treatment 1, measure
Y; expose i to treatment 2, measure Y.
Difference in outcomes is causal effect
• Assumptions: Temporal stability (response
constancy) & causal transience (effect of 1st
treatment does not affect i’s response to 2nd
Fundamental Problem (cont’d)
• Second scientific way: Assume all units are
identical, thus, doesn’t matter which unit
receives the treatment (unit homogeneity)
• Give treatment to unit 1 & use unit 2 as
control, then compare difference in Y.
• These assumptions are rarely plausible when
studying individuals
– Maybe when studying twins, as in the MN Twin
Family Study
• And this is not a study of baseball team!
The Statistical Solution
• Rather than focusing on units (i), estimate the
average causal effect for a population of
units (i’s). Formally:
di = E(Yt – Yc)
• where Y’s are average outcomes for
individuals in treatment & control groups
• Assume: i’s differ only in terms of treatment
group assignment, not on characteristics or
prior experiences that could affect Y
• If we study the effects of being in a summer
bridge program on GPA in 1st semester of
college, maybe students who select into
treatment are materially different than peers
• If we could randomly assign students to the
program (or not) then we could examine
causal impact of program on GPA.
• Why? Because group assignment would, on
average, be independent of any measured or
unmeasured pretreatment characteristics.
Problems with Idealized Solution
• Random assignment not always possible, so
pretreatment characteristics & treatment
group assignment independence violated
• Even when randomization is used, statistical
methods are often used to adjust for
confounding variables
– By controlling for student, classroom, school
characteristics that predict treatment assignment
& outcomes
– But this approach is often sub-optimal
Criteria for Making Causal Statements
• Causal relativity: Effect of cause must be
made compared to effect of another cause
• Causal manipulation: Units must be
potentially exposable to both the treatment &
control conditions.
• Temporal ordering: Exposure to cause must
occur at specific time or within specific time
period before effect
• Elimination of alternative explanations
Issues in Employing RCTs
• May be differences in treated/controls even
under randomization: Small samples
– Employ regression methods to control for diffs
– Cross-study comparisons & replication useful
• Avg effect in population may not be of most
interest: ATT; Heterogeneous treat. effects
– Test for sub-group differences of treatment
• Mechanism for assignment to treatment may
not be independent of responses
– Merit-based programs & responses (“halo”)
Issues in Employing RCTs (cont’d)
• Responses of treated should not be affected
by treatment of others (“spillover” effects)
– e.g.: New retention program initiated; controls
respond by being demoralized (motivated),
leading to bias upward (downward) of the
treatment effects.
• Treatment non-compliance & attrition
– Random assignment of students to programs; but
some will leave programs before completion
– ITT analysis; remove non-compliers; focus on
“true compliers”
Quasi/Non-Experimental Designs
• Compared to RCTs, no randomization
• Many quasi-experimental designs
– Many are variation of pre-test/post-test
structure without randomization
– Apply when non-experimental (“observational”)
data used, which is often case in ed. research
• Pros: When properly done may be more
generalizable than RCTs
• Main Problem: Internal validity
– Did the “treatment” really produce the effect?
“Causation” with Observational Data
• Often difficult to ascertain because of nonrandom assignment to “treatment”
• Example: Students often self-select into
courses, interventions, programs, may result
in biased estimates when “naïve” methods
employed to ascertain treatment effects
• Goal? Mimic desirable properties of RCTs
• Solution? Employ designs/methods that
account for non-random assignment; will
demonstrate some today
• When using observational data the idea is:
Find a group that looks like the treated on as
many dimensions as you can measure
• Establishing what counterfactual is & how to
create legitimate control group is difficult
• The best counterfactual is one’s self!
– Adam & Grace time machine example
– Often why you see repeated measures designs
– Twins study in MN
The “Naïve” Statistical Approach
• Y = a + 𝛽 1X + 𝜷2T + e
• where Y is outcome of interest; X is set of
controls; T is treatment “dummy”; a & 𝛽 are
parameters to be estimated, with 𝜷2 being
parameter estimate of interest; e is error
term accounting for unmeasured or
unobservable factors affecting Y.
• Problem: If T & e are correlated, then
estimate of 𝛽 2 will be biased
• (1) is known as the “outcome” or “structural”
equation or sometimes “stage 2”
Selection Adjustment Methods
• Fixed effects (FE) methods, instrumental
variables (IV), propensity score matching
(PSM), & regression discontinuity (RD)
designs all have been used to approximate
randomized controlled experiment results
• All are regression-based methods
• Each have strengths/weaknesses & their
applicability often depends on knowledge of
DGP & richness of data available
Matching Methods
• Compare outcomes of similar individuals
where only difference is treatment; discard
other observations
• Example: GEAR UP effects on HS grad
– Low income (on avg) have lower achievement
& are less likely to graduate from HS
– Naïve comparison of GEAR UP to others likely
to give biased results because untreated tend to
have higher HS graduation rates
– Use matching methods to develop similar nontreated group to compare HS grad rates
One Remedy: Direct Matching
• Find control cases with pre-treatment
characteristics that are exactly the same
as those of the treated group
• Strategy breaks down because as number
of X’s increases, pr(match) goes to zero
– Known as the “curse of dimensionality”
– e.g., Matching on 20 binary variables results
in 220 or 1,048,576 possible values for X’s!
• If you add in continuous vars (e.g., GPA,
income) problem becomes even more intractable
Propensity Score Matching
• Solution: Estimate the “propensity score”
(PS) & match treated with control cases
based only on this single number
– This approach controls for pre-treatment
differences by balancing each group’s set of
observable characteristics on a single
• Goal: Estimate treatment effects for
individuals with similar observable
characteristics, as indexed by the PS
Estimating the Propensity Score
• Estimate Pr(treatment)
– Typically done using logistic regression, but
some software uses probit
• Use PS to find control(s) with “same”
score as treated observation
– Establishes counterfactual (“control” group)
• Test for differences in outcomes between
treated & counterfactual (“controls”)
– Often done using regression methods
Goal of PS Matching
• When done correctly, probability that
treated observation has specific trait (X=x)
is same as Pr(untreated) has (X=x)
• PSM is basically a “resampling” or even
“oversampling” method, which involves a
bias & variance tradeoff
– e.g., When matching with replacement, avg.
match quality increases & bias decreases, but
fewer distinct controls are used, increasing
the variance of the estimator
PSM Assumptions: Conditional
Independence Assumption
• Conditional on observables, there is no
correlation between the treatment &
outcome that occurs absent the treatment
Mathematically: (Y1 ,Y0 ) ┴ D | X
• After controlling for observables, the
treatment assignment is as good as random
• Upshot: Untreated observations can serve as
the counterfactual for the treated
Assumption: Common Support
• The probability of receiving treatment for
each value of X lies between 0 and 1
Mathematically: 0 < P(D = 1| X ) <1
• AKA the overlap condition because ensures
overlap in characteristics of treated &
untreated to find matches (common support)
• Upshot: A match can actually be made
between the treated and untreated
Assumptions (cont’d)
• When CIA & common support are satisfied,
treatment assignment is strongly ignorable
• Though not an assumption, observed
characteristics need to be balanced across
the treated & untreated groups
– If not, then regardless of whether assumptions
hold there will be biased from selection on
observable characteristics
• Can check for balancing & how much bias
is reduced by matching on observables
Plan of Action for This Portion
• Discuss logical folder structure to store do
files (programs), data, & output files
• Learn how Stata works & some basic
• Simulate DGP to examine consequences of
violations of assumptions
• Later examine code to undertake PSM
modeling & discuss how these techniques
might be used in your research
Importance of Good Structure
• My bet is that IR folks like you know this
already but…
• Creating a logical folder structure for each
project is important step in analysis process
• If you use a similar structure all the time
you will be able to come back to projects at
later date & understand what was done
• Also very important to provide comments in
your do files so you know what you did
– Maybe someone else will pick up your work
Folder Structure
• CA AIR 2014 (folder located on C: drive)
Articles (contains articles/chapters)
Data (contains data files)
Do Files (contains do files)
Graphs (place to send graphs created by code)
Results (place to send output created by code)
Powerpoint (contains PowerPoints)
• Examples of path names:
– log using “C:\CA AIR 2014\Log Files\CA AIR Log 1.log”, replace
– use “C:\CA AIR 2014\Data\CA AIR PSM DataSub.dta”, clear
How Stata Works
• Command or “point & click” driven
• Software resides in:
– C:\Program Files (x86) Stata13 (or Stata12)
– Type: “adopath” on command line to find paths
to the ado files used
• Role of “ado” files
– Examine ado & help files
• Discuss user written ado & help files
The “Look” of Stata
• Toolbar contains icons that allow you to Open &
Save files, Print results, control Logs, &
manipulate windows
• Of particular interest: Opening the Do-File
Editor, the Data Editor and the Data Browser.
– Data Editor & Browser: Spreadsheet view of data
• Do-File Editor allows you to construct a file of
Stata commands, save them, & execute all/parts
• The Current Working Directory is where any
files created in your active Stata session will be
saved (by default).
– Don’t save stuff here, direct to folders discussed above
Windows in Stata
• Review, Results, Command, & Variables
• Help: Search for any command/feature. Help
Browser, which opens in Viewer window,
provides hyperlinks to help pages & to pages in
the Stata manuals (which are quite good)
• May search for help using command line
• Role of “findit” & “ssc install”
– Locate commands in Stata Technical Bulletin & Stata
Journal; Demo loading the “psmatch2” command
– On command line type: “ssc describe psmatch2” then
“ssc install psmatch2” & then “help psmatch2”
Stata Program Files
• Called “do” files; contain Stata
code/commands we “run” to produce results
• Do File Name:
– CA AIR PSM Violations in the
“Do Files” sub-folder in CA AIR 2014 main
project folder
– Later will use: CA AIR in same place
• There are also menu options to run
commands in Stata, but we won’t do this
– May be useful for some “on the fly” analysis,
but it is NOT a good way to do most projects
– Reasons: Reproducibility & transportability 39
Simulating Condition Violations
• Before delving into real application of
propensity score matching in education
research, we will examine effects of a few
condition/assumption violations on results
• To do so, we’ll create “fake” data set so we
know true parameters & can therefore
figure out bias due to such violations
Effect of Selection Bias Under
Different DGP Scenarios
• Examine effectiveness of different statistical
methods to remedy selection bias
• Create artificial data using regression model:
y = a + 𝜷x + tw + e
– where x is a control, w is treatment; data is
created for y, x, w, e and parameters are:
y = 10 + 1.5x + 2w + e
• True treatment effect known; evaluate bias
under different scenarios/using alt. methods
Simulations Conducted
• Relax following conditions:
– No correlation between x and e
– No correlation between x and w
Scenario 1: The Ideal Condition
• Conditional on observables (x), treatment
(w) is independent of the error (e)
• The scenario mimics the data that would be
generated from a randomized study
– x is created as an ordinal variable, taking on the
values 1, 2, 3, 4
• If we regress y on x (controls) and w
(treatment indicator) we obtain…
Scenario 2: Ignorable Treatment
Assignment Assumption Violated
• Conditional on observables (x), the
treatment (w) is NOT independent of the
error (e)
• All other conditions hold
• This is a classic selection bias condition
• Given the correlation between treatment and
the error, we’d expect “naïve” regression to
result in biased estimate of treatment effect
Scenario 3: Multicollinearity
• In this scenario, conditional on observables
(x), treatment (w) is independent of the
error (e) (ignorable treatment assignment)
• But we allow x & w to be correlated (there
is multicollinearity)
• Often happens in social science research
• This scenario should not affect the size of
the treatment effect, but SEs should be
incorrect, thus significance tests wrong
Scenario 4
• There is correlation between the regressors
and non-ignorable treatment assignment
• Correlation between x and error & t
• x is continuous instead of ordinal
• All other assumptions from Scenario 1 hold
• Pattern in graph is produced by correlation
between treatment & error term
• Happens when control variables (x’s) are omitted
• Known as "selection on unobservables"
Scenario 5
• In this scenario t and x correlated with the
error term; w and x are also correlated
• This scenario assumes the weakest
conditions for data generation
• The results produced by both the naïve
regression and the matching methods result
in substantial bias in the estimation of the
treatment effect
Does Failure of Parents to Provide
Required Support Hinder Student Success?
• Some parents provide the support they
are required to, others do not
• Inferential problem: Students who do not
get support (“treated”) may be different
(on observed & unobserved factors) than
those who receive support
– Correlation between Pr(no support) &
educational outcomes makes parsing causal
effects from observed & unobserved
differences in students very difficult
Empirical Example
• Examine whether lack of expected parental
financial support causes differences in:
– Loan use; attending part-time; worked 20+
hours/week in college; whether student dropped
out in year one; completion of a bachelor’s
degree within 6 years
• Treatment variable: T = 1 if student did not
receive required funds from their parents to
pay for college expenses; 0 otherwise
PSM: Charting the Way, Step 1
• Estimate conditional probability of
receiving treatment; the “propensity score”
• Remedy imbalance in treated/controls using
variables affecting selection into treatment;
choose functional form (logit or probit)
e.g. ln p/1-p = a + 𝛽x + tw + e
• Pairs of treated/control cases with similar
PS are viewed as “comparable” even though
they may have different covariate values
Pre-Match Balance (not all vars)
Underrep Minority
Student is female
Mom's ed high school or less
Mom's ed, some college, less t
Mom's ed Bachelors
Mom's ed graduate degree
Father's ed high school or les
Father's ed, some college, les
Father's ed Bachelors
Father's ed graduate degree
Attended private high school
Applied to 1 college only
Log of dependent family income
Family size of 2 or 3
Family size of 4 or 5
Parent was married/remarried
Student earned college credits
Student highest high school ma
HS test score
English is the primary languag
HSgpa==2.9 or less
HSgpa==3.0 to 3.4
Treated Control
Step 2: Matching
• Propensity score used to match treated to
control case(s) to make cases “alike”
• Extent of “common support” will dictate
whether there is match for all treated
– Lack of will lead to non-matches; loss of cases
• Thus, this is really resampling, with new sample
balanced in terms of selection bias
• Many algorithms available to match cases
with similar PS
Pre-Match Common Support
Untreated (received support)
Treated (no support)
Graphs by Treatment: Did not receive parental support
Another Common Support Graph
Propensity Score
Variable Selection
• May want to include large # of variables &
remove insignificant ones
• May improve fit according to model fit
measures, but does not focus on the task at
hand: Achieving balance among Xs
(satisfying the CIA).
• An X may not be significant but removing it
may remove important variation necessary
to satisfy CIA.
Variable Selection (cont’d)
• Use conceptual theory & prior research to
suggest necessary conditioning Xs
• Xs affecting selection into treatment & the
outcome can and should be included
• Need to be careful about temporal ordering
– Only variables unaffected by participation (or
the anticipation of it) should be included
• Some debate in literature about
specification of PS regression model
Step 3: Post-Matching Analysis
• Balanced sample corrects for selection bias
& violations of assumptions inherent when
using naïve statistical methods to est. effects
• Use resample to do multivariate analysis as
normally would if DGP from randomization
– Could also stratify on PS and compare means
between treated/controls in each stratum
• Many variations on this general 3 step
approach; see Guo & Fraser for details
Post-Match Overlap Condition
Propensity score, nohelp=Untreated (received support)
nohelp=Untreated (received support)
nohelp=Treated (no support)
Post-Match Covariate Balance
Underrep Minority
Treated Control
Mom's ed high school o U
Mom's ed, some college U
Mom's ed Bachelors
Mom's ed graduate degr U
Father's ed high schoo U
Father's ed, some coll U
Father's ed Bachelors
Father's ed graduate d U
Student is female
Different Matching Algorithms
• Nearest Neighbor: Treated obs matched to
control obs with similar PS
– Latter case used as counterfactual for former
• Can perform NN with/without replacement
– With: Higher quality matches (< biased) by
always using closest neighbor regardless of
whether it has been used before
• Doing so increases variance of estimates because
fewer untreated units are used in the matching
Matching Algorithms (cont’d)
– Without replacement: Order in which matches
made is important because matches must be
unique. If made in particular order (going from
low to higher PS), then systematic biases may
be built in.
– When using NN matching without replacement
it is critical that order in which the matches are
made be random.
• Will see how to do this later
Caliper & Radius Matching
• Drawback of NN: NN may not be near!
• Caliper matching: NN & define range in
which acceptable matches can be made
– Bandwidth chosen by researcher; represents
max interval in which to make a match
– NN outside of bandwidth, no match & treated
case has no counterfactual/not used
– Method imposes common support for each
observation in the data
Caliper & Radius (cont’d)
• Caliper: Treated obs PS = .40 & h=.05
– Where h is the “bandwidth” Match made if
0.35<= NN <= 0.45.
• Equivalent when matching with
replacement is called “radius” matching
– Matches within bandwidth are equally weighted
when constructing counterfactual
• Both require h & bias/Var tradeoff
– Wider h lowers Var as more data used, but also
lowers the match quality & bias increases
Kernel & Local Linear Regression
• Both are one-to-many algorithms
• Unlike radius, these weight each untreated
obs according to how close match is
• Function determining weight: the “kernel”
– As match becomes worse; weight on untreated
unit decreases
• LLR uses kernel to weight obs but does so
using regression-based methods
• Both are computationally intensive
PS Reweighting
• Simpler procedure focuses on reweighting
& does not involve matching obs
– AKA “inverse probability weighting”
• Reweight untreated obs with high (low) PS
up (down)
– Untreated obs with high PS most like treated so
weight more heavily than the observations that
are dissimilar (as indicated by low PS)
– Advantage: Program ease because no need to
create counterfactuals for each unit one-by-one.
• How to construct SEs of treatment effects?
• Incorrect to t-test on null ATT=0; doesn’t
account for V intro. by estimation of PS
• Solution: Use teffects command or if using
psmatch2 need to bootstrap SEs to obtain
correct CIs for estimated effects
• Randomly pull obs (with replacement) then
calc. effect; draw new sample; est another
effect; do this many (e.g., thousands) times
Inference (cont’d)
• For NN using psmatch2, bs may not
produce accurate SEs
– Lack of “smoothness” of algorithm?
• Smoother algorithms, such as kernel
matching, local linear regression, & PS
reweighting may not suffer from similar
• Despite concerns, bs is most common
method for producing SEs in matching
methods (if not using teffects command)
• If there are unobserved variables that
simultaneously affect assignment into
treatment & the outcome variable, a hidden
bias might arise to which matching
estimators are not robust
• Since estimating the magnitude of selection
bias with nonexperimental data is not
possible, we address this problem with the
bounding approach proposed by
Rosenbaum (2002)
• The basic question is whether unobserved
factors can alter inference about treatment
effects. One wants to determine how
strongly an unmeasured variable must
influence the selection process to undermine
the implications of the matching analysis.
• Rbounds test sensitivity for continuousoutcome variables, mhbounds for binaryoutcome variables
• if there is hidden bias, two individuals with
the same observed covariates x have
different chances of receiving treatment
• Sensitivity analysis now evaluates how
changing the values of γ and (ui−uj) alters
inference about the program effect.
• individuals who appear to be similar (in
terms of x) could differ in their odds of
receiving the treatment by as much as a
factor of 2. In this sense, eγ is a measure of
the degree of departure from a study that is70
Pros/Cons of PSM
• Benefits
– Make inference from comparable group
– Focuses on population of interest
– Use of propensity score solves the
dimensionality problem in direct matching
• Limitations
– Cannot directly control for unobserved
characteristics that affect the outcome
• Can, however, examine sensitivity of this, which is
an innovation in method
• RCTs are desirable in terms of making causal
statements, but often difficult to employ
• In education we often have observational data but
methods used to make statements of treatment
effects are typically deficient
• Ultimate goal: Make strong (“causal”) statements
to improve knowledge of mechanisms that
determine program & practice effectiveness
• We need to be much more attentive to the
problems that arise when we are using
observational data
Other Take Aways
• Education research has not kept pace with
advances in quantitative methods
• There are really few good reasons for not applying
these new methods
• There is a payoff for doing so: Better information
about the mechanisms that affect higher education
processes, policies, and outcomes
• We need to employ these methods more broadly in
IR to ascertain “what works”
Suggestion: Read This Book…
Guo, S. and Fraser, M. W. (2014). Propensity Score Analysis:
Statistical Methods and Applications, Second Edition.
Thousand Oaks, CA: Sages Publications.
Companion page:
…and Read This Chapter
Reynolds, C. L., & DesJardins, S. L. (2009). The Use of
Matching Methods in Higher Education Research:
Answering Whether Attendance at a Two-Year Institution
Results in Differences in Educational Attainment. In John
Smart (Ed.), Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and
Research XXIII: 47-104.
Purchasing Stata
• Depending on your needs, there are a
number of software options when
purchasing Stata
• Single user/institutional/Grad Plan licenses
• Small vs. IC vs. SE versions
• Perpetual license; continually updated
• Stat Transfer software
• See the Stata website for more information:
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Guo, S. and Fraser, M. W. (2010). Propensity Score Analysis: Statistical Methods and
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– Companion page:
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Handbook of Theory and Research XXIII: 47-104.
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curriculum, college graduation, and earnings. San Francisco, CA: Public Policy
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Multivariate Matched Sampling Methods That Incorporate the Propensity Score. The
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Rosenbaum, P. R. (2002). Observational Studies. 2nd ed. New York: Springer.
Rosenbaum, P. R. (2010). Design of observational studies. New York: Springer
Rubin, D. B. (1974). Estimating causal effects of treatments in randomized and
nonrandomized studies. Journal of Educational Psychology, 66(5), 688–701.
Rubin, D. B. (1977). Assignment of treatment group on the basis of a covariate. Journal
of Educational Statistics, 2, 1–26.
Rubin, D. B. (1978). Bayesian inference for causal effects: The role of randomization.
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Rubin, D. B. (1980). Discussion of “Randomization analysis of experimental data in the
Fisher randomization test” by Basu. Journal of the American Statistical Association, 75,
Schneider, B., Carnoy, M., Kilpatrick, J., Schmidt, W. H., & Shavelson, R. J. (2007).
Estimating Causal Effects Using Experimental and Observational Designs. Washington,
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Shadish, W. R., Cook, T. D., Campbell, D.T. (2002). Experimental and quasiexperimental designs for generalized causal inference. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin
Stuart, E.A. (2010) Matching methods for causal inference: A review and a look
forward. Statistical Science, 25(1), 1-21.
• Thank You for Your Kind Attention!
Background Material
Recent AERA Report on the Issue
• “Recently, questions of causality have been
at the forefront of educational debates and
discussions, in part because of
dissatisfaction with the quality of education
research…”. A common concern “revolves
around the design of and methods used in
education research, which many claim have
resulted in fragmented and often unreliable
findings” (Schneider, et al., 2007)
Definition of Cause and Effect
• “A cause is that which makes any other
thing, either simple idea, substance, or
mode, begin to be; and an effect is that
which had its beginning from some other
thing” (Locke, 1690/1975, p. 325).
In quintiles, you divide your sample into five groups, the 20% LEAST likely to end up
in your treatment group is quintile 1, the 20% with the GREATEST likelihood of ending
up in your treatment group is quintile 5, and so on. You match the subjects by quintiles.
So, if 12% of the treatment group is in quintile 1, you randomly select 12% of the
control subjects from quintile 1. In nearest neighbor matching, as the name implies, you
match each subject in the treatment group with a subject in the control group who is
nearest in probability of ending up in the treatment group. Then, there is the calipers
(radius) matching, that uses the nearest neighbors within a given radius or interval.
Propensity score matching
Rosenbaum, P.R. and Rubin, D.B. (1983), “The Central Role of the Propensity Score in Observational Studies for Causal
Effects”, Biometrika, 70, 1, 41-55.
Caliper matching
Cochran, W. and Rubin, D.B. (1973), “Controlling Bias in Observational Studies”, Sankyha, 35, 417-446.
Kernel-based matching
Heckman, J.J., Ichimura, H. and Todd, P.E. (1997), “Matching As An Econometric Evaluation Estimator: Evidence from
Evaluating a Job Training Programme”, Review of Economic Studies, 64, 605-654.
Heckman, J.J., Ichimura, H. and Todd, P.E. (1998), “Matching as an Econometric Evaluation Estimator”, Review of
Economic Studies, 65, 261-294.
Mahalanobis distance matching
Rubin, D.B. (1980), “Bias Reduction Using Mahalanobis-Metric Matching”, Biometrics, 36, 293-298.
Data Set Used
• Data Set Name: CA AIR PSM DataSub.dta
that is located in the “Data” sub-folder in
the CA AIR 2014 main project folder
• The data contains a subset of national
education data
– Only select variables are included in the dataset
• These methods, and others, can be helpful
in studying the effects of programs, process,
& practices where random assignment is not
possible or feasible.
• They are regression-based so learning them
is an extension of the OLS/logit training
many have had
• The results can be displayed in a way so as
to make them understandable to policy
makers & administrators
Summary (cont’d)
• There are many resources available to learn
& extend these methods
– Higher education literature, Stata (and other)
publications, blogs with code & solutions to
programming/statistical problems
– Professional development workshops
• I hope you’ve found this exercise helpful &
that you will be able to use these methods in
your IR work