Causal Inference in Accounting Research

Causal Inference in Accounting Research

February 8,2016Working Paper No. 3393

This paper examines the approaches accounting researchers use to draw causal inferences using observational (or non-experimental) 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); increased emphasis on structural modeling of the phenomena of interest. We argue these changes offer a practical path forward for rigorous accounting research.

Keywords
accounting research, causal inferences, study of causal mechanisms, study of causal pathways, econometrics