Causal Inference Should Focus More on Mechanism Than Method

[From a post by Andrew Gelman at his blog, Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science]
“If researchers and policy makers continue to view results of impact evaluations as a black box and fail to focus on mechanisms, the movement toward evidence-based policy making will fall far short of its potential for improving people’s lives.”
“I agree with this quote from Bates and Gellenerst, and I think the whole push-a-button, take-a-pill, black-box attitude toward causal inference has been a disastrous mistake. I feel particularly bad about this, given that econometrics and statistics textbooks, including my own, have been pushing this view for decades.”
“Stepping back a bit, I agree with Vivalt that, if we want to get a sense of what policies to enact, it can be a mistake to try to be making these decisions based on the results of little experiments. There’s nothing wrong with trying to learn from demonstration studies (as here), but generally I think realism is more important than randomization. And, when effects are highly variable and measurements are noisy, you can’t learn much even from clean experiments.”
To read more, click here.

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