Unbiased Estimation of the Average Treatment Effect in Cluster-Randomized Experiments
Joel A. Middleton
New York University (NYU) - The Steinhardt School
Peter M. Aronow
Yale University - Department of Political Science
April 5, 2011
Many estimators of the average treatment effect, including difference-in-means, may be biased when clusters of units are allocated to treatment. This bias may remain even when the number of units grows asymptotically large. In this paper, we propose simple, unbiased and scale-invariant design-based estimators of the average treatment effect, along with associated variance estimators. We then analyze a cluster-randomized field experiment on voter mobilization in the United States, demonstrating that the proposed estimators have precision that is comparable (if not superior) to that of existing biased estimators of the average treatment effect. Our results have methodological implications for both experimental and observational research reliant on the Neyman-Rubin Causal Model of potential outcomes.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 54
Keywords: causal inference, cluster-randomized experiments, experimental methodology, field experiments, group-randomized trials, potential outcomes, Neyman-Rubin Causal Model
JEL Classification: C9, C90, C93, C00working papers series
Date posted: April 8, 2011
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