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How does a local Instrumental Variable Method perform across settings with instruments of differing strengths? A simulation study and an evaluation of emergency surgery

Moler-Zapata, S.;, Grieve, R.;, Basu, A.; and Stephen O'Neill

Health, Econometrics and Data Group (HEDG) Working Papers from HEDG, c/o Department of Economics, University of York

Abstract: Local instrumental variable (LIV) approaches use continuous/multi-valued instrumental variables (IV) to generate consistent estimates of average treatment effects (ATEs) and Conditional Average Treatment Effects (CATEs). However, there is little evidence on how LIV approaches perform with different sample sizes or according to the strength of the IV (as measured by the first-stage F-statistic). We examined the performance of an LIV approach and a two-stage least squares (2SLS) approach in settings with different sample sizes and IV strengths, and considered the implications for practice. Our simulation study considered three sample sizes (n = 5000, 10000, 50000), six levels of IV strength (F-statistic = 10, 25, 50, 100, 500, 1000) under four ‘heterogeneity’ scenarios: effect homogeneity, overt heterogeneity (over measured covariates), essential heterogeneity (over unmeasured covariates), and overt and essential heterogeneity combined. Compared to 2SLS, the LIV approach provided estimates for ATE and CATE with lower levels of bias and RMSE, irrespective of the sample size or IV strength. With smaller sample sizes, both approaches required IVs with greater strength to ensure low (less than 5%) levels of bias. In the presence of overt and/or essential heterogeneity, the LIV approach reported estimates with low bias even when the sample size was smaller (n = 5000), provided that the instrument was moderately strong (F-statistic greater than 50, for the ATE estimand). We considered both methods in evaluating emergency surgery across three different acute conditions with IVs of differing strengths (F-statistic ranging from 100 to 9000), and sample sizes (100000 to 300000). We found that 2SLS did not detect significant differences in effectiveness across subgroups, even with subgroup by treatment interactions included in the model. The LIV approach found there were substantive differences in the effectiveness of emergency surgery according to subgroups; for each of the three acute conditions, frail patients had worse outcomes following emergency surgery. These findings indicate that when a continuous IV of a moderate strength is available, LIV approaches are better suited than 2SLS to estimate policy-relevant treatment effect parameters.

Keywords: instrumental variables; instrument strength; tendency to operate; emergency surgery (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2022-07
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-ecm
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Handle: RePEc:yor:hectdg:22/18