Causal Inference in Accounting Research

Causal Inference in Accounting Research

Journal of Accounting Reseach. April
19, 2016, Vol. 54, Issue 2, Pages 477-523

This paper examines the approaches accounting researchers adopt to draw causal inferences using observational (or nonexperimental) data. The vast majority of accounting research papers draw causal inferences notwithstanding the well-known difficulties in doing so. While some recent papers seek to use quasi-experimental methods to improve causal inferences, these methods also make strong assumptions that are not always fully appreciated. We believe that accounting research would benefit from more in-depth descriptive research, including a greater focus on the study of causal mechanisms (or causal pathways) and increased emphasis on the structural modeling of the phenomena of interest. We argue these changes offer a practical path forward for rigorous accounting research.