Approximate Residual Balancing: Debiased Inference of Average Treatment Effects in High Dimensions

Approximate Residual Balancing: Debiased Inference of Average Treatment Effects in High Dimensions

Journal of the Royal Statistical Society-Series B. February
18, 2018, Vol. 80, Issue 4, Pages 597-623

There are many settings where researchers are interested in estimating average treatment effects and are willing to rely on the unconfoundedness assumption, which requires that the treatment assignment be as good as random conditional on pretreatment variables. The unconfoundedness assumption is often more plausible if a large number of pretreatment variables are included in the analysis, but this can worsen the performance of standard approaches to treatment effect estimation. We develop a method for debiasing penalized regression adjustments to allow sparse regression methods like the lasso to be used for √n‐consistent inference of average treatment effects in high dimensional linear models. Given linearity, we do not need to assume that the treatment propensities are estimable, or that the average treatment effect is a sparse contrast of the outcome model parameters. Rather, in addition to standard assumptions used to make lasso regression on the outcome model consistent under 1‐norm error, we require only overlap, i.e. that the propensity score be uniformly bounded away from 0 and 1. Procedurally, our method combines balancing weights with a regularized regression adjustment.