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Assignment to Treatment Group on the Basis of a Covariate

Donald B. Rubin
Journal of Educational Statistics
Vol. 2, No. 1 (Spring, 1977), pp. 1-26
DOI: 10.2307/1164933
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1164933
Page Count: 26
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Assignment to Treatment Group on the Basis of a Covariate
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Abstract

When assignment to treatment group is made solely on the basis of the value of a covariate, X, effort should be concentrated on estimating the conditional expectations of the dependent variable Y given X in the treatment and control groups. One then averages the difference between these conditional expectations over the distribution of X in the relevant population. There is no need for concern about "other" sources of bias, e. g., unreliability of X, unmeasured background variables. If the conditional expectations are parallel and linear, the proper regression adjustment is the simple covariance adjustment. However, since the quality of the resulting estimates may be sensitive to the adequacy of the underlying model, it is wise to search for nonparallelism and nonlinearity in these conditional expectations. Blocking on the values of X is also appropriate, although the quality of the resulting estimates may be sensitive to the coarseness of the blocking employed. In order for these techniques to be useful in practice, there must be either substantial overlap in the distribution of X in the treatment groups or strong prior information.

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