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date: 24 September 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Many questions arising in research in economics and human biology cannot be studied through experimental manipulation, making the ideal randomized controlled trial (RCT) infeasible. Often the only data available are observational, and the researcher must confront the challenge of the nonrandom choice of the independent variable, known as the self-selection problem. This chapter describes this selection bias and discusses the central econometric techniques that economists have in their arsenal to guide causal inference with nonexperimental data, with a particular focus on implementation and key identifying assumptions underlying each empirical strategy. Applications are drawn upon in which this selection bias is addressed. Also included in the chapter is a brief discussion of issues relating to treatment heterogeneity and methods that allow the causal effect to vary among persons, either by unobserved or observed characteristics, which may help reveal in which subsets of the population the estimable or interesting causal effect applies.

Keywords: econometrics, selection bias, endogeneity, instrumental variables, mediators, synthetic control, regression discontinuity, difference-in-differences, heterogeneous treatment

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