From Casual to Causal Inference in Accounting Research: The Need for Theoretical Foundations

From Casual to Causal Inference in Accounting Research: The Need for Theoretical Foundations

By
Jeremy Bertomeu, Anne Beyer, Daniel J. Taylor
Foundations & Trends in Accounting. August
17, 2016, Vol. 10, Issue 2-4, Pages 179-236

On December 5th and 6th 2014, the Stanford Graduate School of Business hosted the Causality in the Social Sciences Conference. The conference brought together several distinguished speakers from philosophy, economics, finance, accounting and marketing with the bold mission of debating scientific methods that support causal inferences. We highlight key themes from the conference as relevant for accounting researchers. First, we emphasize the role of formal economic theory in informing empirical research that seeks to draw causal inferences, and offer a skeptical perspective on attempts to draw causal inferences in the absence of welldefined constructs and assumptions. Next, we highlight some of the conceptual limitations of quasi-natural experimental methods that were discussed at the conference, and discuss the role of structural estimation. Finally, we illustrate many of the points from the conference by estimating a novel, theoretically grounded measure of disclosure costs.