On the Efficiency of Finely Stratified Experiments

by   Yuehao Bai, et al.

This paper studies the efficient estimation of a large class of treatment effect parameters that arise in the analysis of experiments. Here, efficiency is understood to be with respect to a broad class of treatment assignment schemes for which the marginal probability that any unit is assigned to treatment equals a pre-specified value, e.g., one half. Importantly, we do not require that treatment status is assigned in an i.i.d. fashion, thereby accommodating complicated treatment assignment schemes that are used in practice, such as stratified block randomization and matched pairs. The class of parameters considered are those that can be expressed as the solution to a restriction on the expectation of a known function of the observed data, including possibly the pre-specified value for the marginal probability of treatment assignment. We show that this class of parameters includes, among other things, average treatment effects, quantile treatment effects, local average treatment effects as well as the counterparts to these quantities in experiments in which the unit is itself a cluster. In this setting, we establish two results. First, we derive a lower bound on the asymptotic variance of estimators of the parameter of interest in the form of a convolution theorem. Second, we show that the näive method of moments estimator achieves this bound on the asymptotic variance quite generally if treatment is assigned using a "finely stratified" design. By a "finely stratified" design, we mean experiments in which units are divided into groups of a fixed size and a proportion within each group is assigned to treatment uniformly at random so that it respects the restriction on the marginal probability of treatment assignment. In this sense, "finely stratified" experiments lead to efficient estimators of treatment effect parameters "by design" rather than through ex post covariate adjustment.


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