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Looking for twins: how to build better counterfactuals with matching

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 February 2021

Stefano Costalli
Affiliation:
Department of Political and Social Sciences, Università degli Studi di Firenze, Firenze, Italy
Fedra Negri*
Affiliation:
Department of Social and Political Sciences, Università degli Studi di Milano, Milano, Italy
*
*Corresponding author. Email: fedra.negri@unimi.it
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Abstract

A primary challenge for researchers that make use of observational data is selection bias (i.e. the units of analysis exhibit systematic differences and dis-homogeneities due to non-random selection into treatment). This article encourages researchers in acknowledging this problem and discusses how and – more importantly – under which assumptions they may resort to statistical matching techniques to reduce the imbalance in the empirical distribution of pre-treatment observable variables between the treatment and control groups. With the aim of providing a practical guidance, the article engages with the evaluation of the effectiveness of peacekeeping missions in the case of the Bosnian civil war, a research topic in which selection bias is a structural feature of the observational data researchers have to use, and shows how to apply the Coarsened Exact Matching (CEM), the most widely used matching algorithm in the fields of Political Science and International Relations.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the Società Italiana di Scienza Politica.

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Costalli and Negri Dataset

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