Comparative Politics and the Synthetic Control Method

American Journal of Political Science. 2014, Forthcoming

Formerly MIT Political Science Department Research Paper No. 2011-25

34 Pages Posted: 28 Oct 2011 Last revised: 8 Feb 2014

Alberto Abadie

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Alexis Diamond

Harvard University

Jens Hainmueller

Stanford University - Department of Political Science; Stanford Graduate School of Business; Stanford Immigration Policy Lab

Date Written: February 1, 2014

Abstract

In recent years a widespread consensus has emerged about the necessity of establishing bridges between quantitative and qualitative approaches to empirical research in political science. In this article, we discuss the use of the synthetic control method as a way to bridge the quantitative/qualitative divide in comparative politics. The synthetic control method provides a systematic way to choose comparison units in comparative case studies. This systematization opens the door to precise quantitative inference in small-sample comparative studies, without precluding the application of qualitative approaches. Borrowing the expression from Sidney Tarrow, the synthetic control method allows researchers to put "qualitative flesh on quantitative bones.'' We illustrate the main ideas behind the synthetic control method by estimating the economic impact of the 1990 German reunification on West Germany.

Keywords: comparative case studies, synthetic control method, difference-in-differences, matching, German reunification

JEL Classification: C23

Suggested Citation

Abadie, Alberto and Diamond, Alexis and Hainmueller, Jens, Comparative Politics and the Synthetic Control Method (February 1, 2014). American Journal of Political Science. 2014, Forthcoming; Formerly MIT Political Science Department Research Paper No. 2011-25. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1950298 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1950298

Alberto Abadie

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-496-4547 (Phone)
617-495-2575 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Alexis J. Diamond

Harvard University ( email )

Jens Hainmueller (Contact Author)

Stanford University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.stanford.edu/~jhain/

Stanford Graduate School of Business ( email )

655 Knight Way
Stanford, CA 94305-5015
United States

Stanford Immigration Policy Lab

30 Alta Road
Stanford, CA 94305
United States

Paper statistics

Downloads
2,939
Rank
2,798
Abstract Views
8,798