.ISSN (e) 1759-7331
(print) 1759-7323
Quantitative Economics
An open-access journal in quantitative economics
Journal of the
Econometric Society
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Quantitative Economics, Volume 10, Issue 4 (November 2019)

Identification of average effects under magnitude and sign restrictions on confounding

Karim Chalak


This paper studies measuring various average effects of X on Y in general structural systems with unobserved confounders U, a potential instrument Z, and a proxy W for U. We do not require X or Z to be exogenous given the covariates or W to be a perfect one‐to‐one mapping of U. We study the identification of coefficients in linear structures as well as covariate‐conditioned average nonparametric discrete and marginal effects (e.g., average treatment effect on the treated), and local and marginal treatment effects. First, we characterize the bias, due to the omitted variables U, of (nonparametric) regression and instrumental variables estimands, thereby generalizing the classic linear regression omitted variable bias formula. We then study the identification of the average effects of X on Y when U may statistically depend on X and Z. These average effects are point identified if the average direct effect of U on Y is zero, in which case exogeneity holds, or if W is a perfect proxy, in which case the ratio (contrast) of the average direct effect of U on Y to the average effect of U on W is also identified. More generally, restricting how the average direct effect of U on Y compares in magnitude and/or sign to the average effect of U on W can partially identify the average effects of X on Y. These restrictions on confounding are weaker than requiring benchmark assumptions, such as exogeneity or a perfect proxy, and enable a sensitivity analysis. After discussing estimation and inference, we apply this framework to study earnings equations.

Causality confounding endogeneity omitted variable bias partial identification proxy sensitivity analysis C31 C35 C36

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