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Fundamental Identification Problem: Causality, Counterfactual Responses, Heterogeneity, Selection

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Fundamental Identification Problem: Causality, Counterfactual Responses, Heterogeneity, Selection

This topic examines the difficulty in determining the causal effects of interventions (e.g. job training programs) on outcomes of interest (e.g. earnings). The counterfactual is an important concept within this topic: the outputs and outcomes that occurred or would have occurred without the intervention. Heterogeneity describes variability in studies brought together for a systematic review (Cochrane). Different selection methodologies can bring about significant differences in the study results. This topic explores these challenges and offers students a set of statistical tools to improve the accuracy of their findings.

Topic Learning Outcome: Students will be knowledgeable about different techniques and strategies for estimating the causal effect of government interventions on outcomes of interest, and will have started to develop a working knowledge of how to apply these techniques and strategies in real-world situations.  

Core Concepts associated with this Topic: Attribution; Baseline Information; Efficiency; Epistemology; Evaluation Assessment; Needs Assessment; Policy Outputs vs. Outcomes; Program Logic; With-versus-Without; Causal Chain; Causal Images; Causal Relationship.

Recommended Readings

Harvard University: API-208 Program Evaluation: Estimating Program Effectiveness with Empirical Analysis

The New York Times, September 19, 2012, "For Weight Loss, Less Exercise May Be More," by Gretchen Reynolds.

Rodrik, D., "We Shall Experiment, But How Shall We Learn?" (2008).

Angrist, J.D. and A.B. Krueger (2000), "Empirical Strategies in Labor Economics," in A. Ashenfelter and D. Card eds. Handbook of Labor Economics, vol. 3. New York: Elsevier Science. Sections 1 and 2.

Imbens, G.W. and J.M. Wooldridge (2009) "Recent Developments in the Econometrics of Program Evaluation," Journal of Economic Literature, vol. 47(1), 5-86.

Kapstein, E. and Kim, R. "The Social and Economic Impact of Standard Chartered Ghana"  

Sample Assessment Questions:

1.) What is a confounding variable? Why is this an important concept for policy/program evaluators to understand?

2.)  What does the term "counterfactual" mean? Why is this an important concept for policy/program evaluators to understand?

Page created by Sean Goertzen and Ben Eisen on 21 May 2015.

 


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© University of Toronto 2008
School of Public Policy and Governance