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Identification, inference, and sensitivity analysis for causal mediation effects
, 2008
"... Abstract. Causal mediation analysis is routinely conducted by applied researchers in a variety of disciplines. The goal of such an analysis is to investigate alternative causal mechanisms by examining the roles of intermediate variables that lie in the causal paths between the treatment and outcome ..."
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Cited by 75 (5 self)
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Abstract. Causal mediation analysis is routinely conducted by applied researchers in a variety of disciplines. The goal of such an analysis is to investigate alternative causal mechanisms by examining the roles of intermediate variables that lie in the causal paths between the treatment and outcome variables. In this paper we first prove that under a particular version of sequential ignorability assumption, the average causal mediation effect (ACME) is nonparametrically identified. We compare our identification assumption with those proposed in the literature. Some practical implications of our identification result are also discussed. In particular, the popular estimator based on the linear structural equation model (LSEM) can be interpreted as an ACME estimator once additional parametric assumptions are made. We show that these assumptions can easily be relaxed within and outside of the LSEM framework and propose simple nonparametric estimation strategies. Second, and perhaps most importantly, we propose a new sensitivity analysis that can be easily implemented by applied researchers within the LSEM framework. Like the existing identifying assumptions, the proposed sequential ignorability assumption may be too strong in many applied settings. Thus, sensitivity analysis is essential in order to examine the robustness of empirical findings to the possible existence of an unmeasured confounder. Finally, we apply the proposed methods to a randomized experiment from political psychology. We also make easytouse software available to implement the proposed methods. Key words and phrases: Causal inference, causal mediation analysis, direct and indirect effects, linear structural equation models, sequential ignorability, unmeasured confounders. 1.
Causal inference in statistics: An Overview
, 2009
"... This review presents empirical researcherswith recent advances in causal inference, and stresses the paradigmatic shifts that must be undertaken in moving from traditional statistical analysis to causal analysis of multivariate data. Special emphasis is placed on the assumptions that underly all ca ..."
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Cited by 59 (12 self)
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This review presents empirical researcherswith recent advances in causal inference, and stresses the paradigmatic shifts that must be undertaken in moving from traditional statistical analysis to causal analysis of multivariate data. Special emphasis is placed on the assumptions that underly all causal inferences, the languages used in formulating those assumptions, the conditional nature of all causal and counterfactual claims, and the methods that have been developed for the assessment of such claims. These advances are illustrated using a general theory of causation based on the Structural Causal Model (SCM) described in Pearl (2000a), which subsumes and unifies other approaches to causation, and provides a coherent mathematical foundation for the analysis of causes and counterfactuals. In particular, the paper surveys the development of mathematical tools for inferring (from a combination of data and assumptions) answers to three types of causal queries: (1) queries about the effects of potential interventions, (also called “causal effects ” or “policy evaluation”) (2) queries about probabilities of counterfactuals, (including assessment of “regret, ” “attribution” or “causes of effects”) and (3) queries about direct and indirect effects (also known as “mediation”). Finally, the paper defines the formal and conceptual relationships between the structural and potentialoutcome frameworks and presents tools for a symbiotic analysis that uses the strong features of both.
Direct and indirect causal effects via potential outcomes.
 Scandinavian Journal of Statistics,
, 2004
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Appendum to Identification of Conditional Interventional Distributions
, 2007
"... The subject of this paper is the elucidation of effects of actions from causal assumptions represented as a directed graph, and statistical knowledge given as a probability distribution. In particular, we are interested in predicting distributions on postaction outcomes given a set of measurements. ..."
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Cited by 56 (28 self)
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The subject of this paper is the elucidation of effects of actions from causal assumptions represented as a directed graph, and statistical knowledge given as a probability distribution. In particular, we are interested in predicting distributions on postaction outcomes given a set of measurements. We provide a necessary and sufficient graphical condition for the cases where such distributions can be uniquely computed from the available information, as well as an algorithm which performs this computation whenever the condition holds. Furthermore, we use our results to prove completeness of docalculus [Pearl, 1995] for the same identification problem, and show applications to sequential decision making. 1
Identification of joint interventional distributions in recursive semimarkovian causal models
"... This paper is concerned with estimating the effects of actions from causal assumptions, represented concisely as a directed graph, and statistical knowledge, given as a probability distribution. We provide a necessary and sufficient graphical condition for the cases when the causal effect of an arbi ..."
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Cited by 55 (21 self)
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This paper is concerned with estimating the effects of actions from causal assumptions, represented concisely as a directed graph, and statistical knowledge, given as a probability distribution. We provide a necessary and sufficient graphical condition for the cases when the causal effect of an arbitrary set of variables on another arbitrary set can be determined uniquely from the available information, as well as an algorithm which computes the effect whenever this condition holds. Furthermore, we use our results to prove completeness of docalculus [Pearl, 1995], and a version of an identification algorithm in [Tian, 2002] for the same identification problem. Finally, we derive a complete characterization of semiMarkovian models in which all causal effects are identifiable.
Unpacking the Black Box of Causality: Learning about Causal Mechanisms from Experimental and Observational Studies
 American Political Science Review
, 2011
"... Identifying causal mechanisms is a fundamental goal of social science. Researchers seek to study not only whether one variable affects another but also how such a causal relationship arises. Yet commonly used statistical methods for identifying causal mechanisms rely upon untestable assumptions and ..."
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Cited by 50 (8 self)
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Identifying causal mechanisms is a fundamental goal of social science. Researchers seek to study not only whether one variable affects another but also how such a causal relationship arises. Yet commonly used statistical methods for identifying causal mechanisms rely upon untestable assumptions and are often inappropriate even under those assumptions. Randomizing treatment and intermediate variables is also insufficient. Despite these difficulties, the study of causal mechanisms is too important to abandon. We make three contributions to improve research on causal mechanisms. First, we present a minimum set of assumptions required under standard designs of experimental and observational studies and develop a general algorithm for estimating causal mediation effects. Second, we provide a method for assessing the sensitivity of conclusions to potential violations of a key assumption. Third, we offer alternative research designs for identifying causal mechanisms under weaker assumptions. The proposed approach is illustrated using media framing experiments and incumbency advantage studies. Over the last couple of decades, social scientists have given greater attention to methodological issues related to causation. This trend has led to a growing number of laboratory, field, and survey
Yes, But What’s the Mechanism? (Don’t Expect an Easy Answer)
"... Psychologists increasingly recommend experimental analysis of mediation. This is a step in the right direction because mediation analyses based on nonexperimental data are likely to be biased and because experiments, in principle, provide a sound basis for causal inference. But even experiments cann ..."
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Cited by 48 (0 self)
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Psychologists increasingly recommend experimental analysis of mediation. This is a step in the right direction because mediation analyses based on nonexperimental data are likely to be biased and because experiments, in principle, provide a sound basis for causal inference. But even experiments cannot overcome certain threats to inference that arise chiefly or exclusively in the context of mediation analysis—threats that have received little attention in psychology. The authors describe 3 of these threats and suggest ways to improve the exposition and design of mediation tests. Their conclusion is that inference about mediators is far more difficult than previous research suggests and is best tackled by an experimental research program that is specifically designed to address the challenges of mediation analysis.
Identifiability of pathspecific effects
 In Proceedings of the Nineteenth International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence IJCAI05
, 2005
"... Counterfactual quantities representing pathspecific effects arise in cases where we are interested in computing the effect of one variable on another only along certain causal paths in the graph (in other words by excluding a set of edges from consideration). A recent paper [7] details a method by ..."
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Cited by 40 (18 self)
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Counterfactual quantities representing pathspecific effects arise in cases where we are interested in computing the effect of one variable on another only along certain causal paths in the graph (in other words by excluding a set of edges from consideration). A recent paper [7] details a method by which such an exclusion can be specified formally by fixing the value of the parent node of each excluded edge. In this paper we derive simple, graphical conditions for experimental identifiability of pathspecific effects, namely, conditions under which pathspecific effects can be estimated consistently from data obtained from controlled experiments. 1
The Mediation Formula: A guide to the assessment of causal pathways in nonlinear models
 STATISTICAL CAUSALITY. FORTHCOMING.
, 2011
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