GHP 228: Econometric Methods in Impact Evaluation

GHP 228 Syllabus Spring 2020

Course Objectives

The objective of this course is to provide students with a set of theoretical, econometric and reasoning skills to assess causality and impact. The course will introduce students to a variety of econometric techniques in impact evaluation and a set of reasoning skills intended to help them become both a consumer and producer of applied empirical research. Students will learn to critically analyze evaluation research and to gauge how convincing the research is in identifying a causal impact. They will use these skills to develop an evaluation plan for a topic of their own, with the aim of stimulating ideas for dissertation research.

Examples from the readings explore the causal effect of policies, laws, governmental and non-governmental programs, and “natural experiments” on health, education, poverty, and other outcomes. We will for the most part approach impact evaluation from an economics perspective and will discuss differences and similarities between how economists establish causality and how causality is established in the medical and public health fields. We will go beyond estimating causal effects to analyze the channels through which the causal impact was likely achieved. This will require that the students are comfortable with microeconomic theories of incentives, institutions, social networks, etc.

This is a methods class that relies heavily on familiarity with econometrics and (at least an intermediate level of) microeconomics. These are pre-requisites for the course without exception. The course is intended for doctoral students who are finishing their course work and aims to help them begin the transition into independent research.

At the end of the course the student will be able to:

    • Understand and apply a variety of econometric methods for estimating impact, including randomized controlled trials, quasi-experimental designs (such as “natural experiments” and regression discontinuity designs), difference-in-differences, synthetic control and interrupted time series.
    • Critically analyze impact evaluation research in economics and public health and gauge the validity of causal estimates
    • Understand evaluation design, including methods for designing randomized-controlled field trials and how to spot a valid quaisi-experimental design
    • Learn how to develop meaningful hypotheses that are amenable to evaluation and test them using econometric techniques