Assessing Heterogeneity of Treatment Effects

Tetsuya Kaji (University of Chicago, Booth School of Business)

Paper with Jianfei Cao

Treatment effect heterogeneity is of major interest in economics, but its assessment is often hindered by the fundamental lack of identification of the individual treatment effects. For example, we may want to assess the effect of insurance on the health of otherwise unhealthy individuals, but it is infeasible to insure only the unhealthy, and thus the causal effects for those are not identified. Or, we may be interested in the shares of winners from a minimum wage increase, while without observing the counterfactual, the winners are not identified. Such heterogeneity is often assessed by quantile treatment effects, which do not come with clear interpretation and the takeaway can sometimes be equivocal. We show that, with the quantiles of the treated and control outcomes, the ranges of these quantities are identified and can be informative even when the average treatment effects are not significant. Two applications illustrate how these ranges can inform us about heterogeneity of the treatment effects.