Proximal Causal Inference for Synthetic Control with Surrogates

by   Jizhou Liu, et al.

The synthetic control method (SCM) has become a popular tool for estimating causal effects in policy evaluation, where a single treated unit is observed, and a heterogeneous set of untreated units with pre- and post-policy change data are also observed. However, the synthetic control method faces challenges in accurately predicting post-intervention potential outcome had, contrary to fact, the treatment been withheld, when the pre-intervention period is short or the post-intervention period is long. To address these issues, we propose a novel method that leverages post-intervention information, specifically time-varying correlates of the causal effect called "surrogates", within the synthetic control framework. We establish conditions for identifying model parameters using the proximal inference framework and apply the generalized method of moments (GMM) approach for estimation and inference about the average treatment effect on the treated (ATT). Interestingly, we uncover specific conditions under which exclusively using post-intervention data suffices for estimation within our framework. Moreover, we explore several extensions, including covariates adjustment, relaxing linearity assumptions through non-parametric identification, and incorporating so-called "contaminated" surrogates, which do not exactly satisfy conditions to be valid surrogates but nevertheless can be incorporated via a simple modification of the proposed approach. Through a simulation study, we demonstrate that our method can outperform other synthetic control methods in estimating both short-term and long-term effects, yielding more accurate inferences. In an empirical application examining the Panic of 1907, one of the worst financial crises in U.S. history, we confirm the practical relevance of our theoretical results.


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