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Archive of posts filed under the Causal Inference category.

OK, sometimes the concept of “false positive” makes sense.

Paul Alper writes: I know by searching your blog that you hold the position, “I’m negative on the expression ‘false positives.’” Nevertheless, I came across this. In the medical/police/judicial world, false positive is a very serious issue: $2 Cost of a typical roadside drug test kit used by police departments. Namely, is that white powder […]

How effective (or counterproductive) is universal child care? Part 2

This is the second of a series of two posts. Yesterday we discussed the difficulties of learning from a small, noisy experiment, in the context of a longitudinal study conducted in Jamaica where researchers reported that an early-childhood intervention program caused a 42%, or 25%, gain in later earnings. I expressed skepticism. Today I want […]

How effective (or counterproductive) is universal child care? Part 1

This is the first of a series of two posts. We’ve talked before about various empirically-based claims of the effectiveness of early childhood intervention. In a much-publicized 2013 paper based on a study of 130 four-year-old children in Jamaica, Paul Gertler et al. claimed that a particular program caused a 42% increase in the participants’ […]

A four-way conversation on weighting and regression for causal inference

It started with a project that Sharad Goel is doing, comparing decisions of judges in an urban court system. Sharad was talking with Avi Feller, Art Owen, and me about estimating the effect of a certain decision option that judges have, controlling for pre-treatment differences between defendants. Art: I’m interested in what that data shows […]

Take that, Bruno Frey! Pharma company busts through Arrow’s theorem, sets new record!

I will tell a story and then ask a question. The story: “Thousands of Americans are alive today because they were luckily selected to be in the placebo arm of the study” Paul Alper writes: As far as I can tell, you have never written about Tambocor (Flecainide) and the so-called CAST study. A locally […]

Birthdays and heat waves

I mentioned the birthdays example in a talk the other day, and Hal Varian pointed me to some research by David Lam and Jeffrey Miron, papers from the 1990s with titles like Seasonality of Births in Human Populations, The Effect of Temperature on Human Fertility, and Modeling Seasonality in Fecundability, Conceptions, and Births. Aki and […]

Balancing bias and variance in the design of behavioral studies: The importance of careful measurement in randomized experiments

At Bank Underground: When studying the effects of interventions on individual behavior, the experimental research template is typically: Gather a bunch of people who are willing to participate in an experiment, randomly divide them into two groups, assign one treatment to group A and the other to group B, then measure the outcomes. If you […]

Calorie labeling reduces obesity Obesity increased more slowly in California, Seattle, Portland (Oregon), and NYC, compared to some other places in the west coast and northeast that didn’t have calorie labeling

Ted Kyle writes: I wonder if you might have some perspective to offer on this analysis by Partha Deb and Carmen Vargas regarding restaurant calorie counts. [Thin columnist] Cass Sunstein says it proves “that calorie labels have had a large and beneficial effect on those who most need them.” I wonder about the impact of […]

Does Benadryl make you senile? Challenges in research communication

Mark Tuttle points to a post, “Common anticholinergic drugs like Benadryl linked to increased dementia risk” by Beverly Merz, Executive Editor, Harvard Women’s Health Watch. Merz writes: In a report published in JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers offers compelling evidence of a link between long-term use of anticholinergic medications like Benadryl and dementia. . . . […]

Killer O

Taggert Brooks points to this excellent news article by George Johnson, who reports: Epidemiologists have long been puzzled by a strange pattern in their data: People living at higher altitudes appear less likely to get lung cancer. . . . The higher you live, the thinner the air, so maybe oxygen is a cause of […]

One-day workshop on causal inference (NYC, Sat. 16 July)

James Savage is teaching a one-day workshop on causal inference this coming Saturday (16 July) in New York using RStanArm. Here’s a link to the details: One-day workshop on causal inference Here’s the course outline: How do prices affect sales? What is the uplift from a marketing decision? By how much will studying for an […]

About that claim that police are less likely to shoot blacks than whites

Josh Miller writes: Did you see this splashy NYT headline, “Surprising New Evidence Shows Bias in Police Use of Force but Not in Shootings”? It’s actually looks like a cool study overall, with granular data, and a ton of leg work, and rich set of results that extend beyond the attention grabbing headline that is […]

Causal and predictive inference in policy research

Todd Rogers pointed me to a paper by Jon Kleinberg, Jens Ludwig, Sendhil Mullainathan, and Ziad Obermeyer that begins: Empirical policy research often focuses on causal inference. Since policy choices seem to depend on understanding the counterfactual—what happens with and without a policy—this tight link of causality and policy seems natural. While this link holds […]

Causal mediation

Judea Pearl points me to this discussion with Kosuke Imai at a conference on causal mediation. I continue to think that the most useful way to think about mediation is in terms of a joint or multivariate outcome, and I continue to think that if we want to understand mediation, we need to think about […]

When doing causal inference, define your treatment decision and then consider the consequences that flow from it

Danielle Fumia writes: I work on research estimating the effect of college attendance on earnings. Many studies that examine the effect of attending college on earnings control for college degree receipt and work experience. These models seem to violate the practice you discuss in your data analysis book of not including intermediate outcomes in the […]

Bias against women in academia

I’m not the best one to write about this: to the extent that there’s bias in favor of men, I’ve been a beneficiary. Also I’m not familiar with the research on the topic. I know there are some statistical difficulties in setting up these causal questions, comparable to the difficulties arising in using “hedonic regression” […]

The Access to Justice Lab at Harvard Law School: Job Openings!

Jim Greiner writes: The Access to Justice Lab is a startup effort, initially supported by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation with sufficient funds for three years, headed by Jim Greiner at Harvard Law School. The Lab will produce randomized control trials (“RCTs”) directly involving courts and lawyers, particularly in the areas of access to […]

The causal inference competition you’ve all been waiting for!

Jennifer Hill announces “the first-ever ACIC causal inference data analysis competition”: Is your SATT where it’s at? Participate by submitting treatment effect estimates across a range of datasets OR by submitting a function (in any of a variety of programming languages) that will take input (covariate, treatment assignment, and response) and generate a treatment effect […]

A short answer to a short question

Emir Efendic writes: What is your opinion and can you think of any critiques of the multiple mediation models by Preacher and Hayes (e.g. Preacher & Hayes, 2008)? What would be your method of choice if you were testing multiple possible mediators of an effect, but also if said mediators are connected in a model […]

2016 Atlantic Causal Inference Conference

Jennifer Hill writes: Registration for the 2016 Atlantic Causal Inference Conference is now live. Stay tuned for short course registration (free for conference participants) and an announcement regarding a causal inference data analysis competition…both coming soon! Also please consider signing up to give a lightning talk (link on website). The conference will be held 26-27 […]