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Propensity Score Matching: A Note of Caution for Evaluators of Social Programs

Deborah N. Peikes, Lorenzo Moreno and Sean Michael Orzol
The American Statistician
Vol. 62, No. 3 (Aug., 2008), pp. 222-231
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27644030
Page Count: 10
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Propensity Score Matching: A Note of Caution for Evaluators of Social Programs
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Abstract

Over the past 25 years, evaluators of social programs have searched for nonexperimental methods that can substitute effectively for experimental ones. Recently, the spotlight has focused on one method, propensity score matching (PSM), as the suggested approach for evaluating employment and education programs. We present a case study of our experience using PSM, under seemingly ideal circumstances, for the evaluation of the State Partnership Initiative employment promotion program. Despite ideal conditions and the passing of statistical tests suggesting that the matching procedure had worked, we find that PSM produced incorrect impact estimates when compared with a randomized design. Based on this experience, we caution practitioners about the risks of implementing PSM-based designs.

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