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Natural Experiments Based on Geography

Luke Keele and Rocio Titiunik ()

Political Science Research and Methods, 2016, vol. 4, issue 1, 65-95

Abstract: Political scientists often attempt to exploit natural experiments to estimate causal effects. We explore how variation in geography can be exploited as a natural experiment and review several assumptions under which geographic natural experiments yield valid causal estimates. In particular, we focus on cases where a geographic or administrative boundary splits units into treated and control areas. The different identification assumptions we consider suggest testable implications, which we use to establish their plausibility. Our methods are illustrated with an original study of whether ballot initiatives increase turnout in Wisconsin and Ohio, which illustrates the strengths and weaknesses of causal inferences based on geographic natural experiments.

Date: 2016
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