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Experimenting with Measurement Error: Techniques with Applications to the Caltech Cohort Study

Ben Gillen, Erik Snowberg and Leeat Yariv

Journal of Political Economy, 2019, vol. 127, issue 4, 1826 - 1863

Abstract: Measurement error is ubiquitous in experimental work. It leads to imperfect statistical controls, attenuated estimated effects of elicited behaviors, and biased correlations between characteristics. We develop statistical techniques for handling experimental measurement error. These techniques are applied to data from the Caltech Cohort Study, which conducts repeated incentivized surveys of the Caltech student body. We replicate three classic experiments, demonstrating that results change substantially when measurement error is accounted for. Collectively, these results show that failing to properly account for measurement error may cause a field-wide bias leading scholars to identify "new" phenomena.

Date: 2019
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