Bounding the Effects of Social Experiments: Accounting for Attrition in Administrative Data

32 Pages Posted: 1 Mar 2013

See all articles by Jeffrey Grogger

Jeffrey Grogger

University of Chicago - Harris School of Public Policy; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: February 2013

Abstract

Social experiments frequently exploit data from administrative records. However, most administrative data systems are state-specific, designed to track earnings or benefit payments among residents within a single state. Once an experimental participant moves out of state, his earnings and benefits in his state of origin consist entirely of zeros, giving rise to a form of attrition. In the presence of such attrition, the average treatment effect of the experiment is no longer point-identified, despite random assignment. I propose a method to estimate such attrition and, for binary outcomes such as employment, to construct bounds on the average treatment effect. Results from a welfare-reform experiment considered to have sizeable effects appear quite ambiguous after accounting for attrition. The results have important implications for planning social experiments.

Suggested Citation

Grogger, Jeffrey T., Bounding the Effects of Social Experiments: Accounting for Attrition in Administrative Data (February 2013). NBER Working Paper No. w18838. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2226810

Jeffrey T. Grogger (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Harris School of Public Policy ( email )

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Chicago, IL 60637
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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