Profiling Compliers in Instrumental Variables Designs

03/10/2021
by   Dominik Hangartner, et al.
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Instrumental variable (IV) analyses are becoming common in health services research and epidemiology. IV analyses can be used both to analyze randomized trials with noncompliance and as a form of natural experiment. In these analyses, investigators often adopt a monotonicity assumption, which implies that the relevant effect only applies to a subset of the study population known as compliers. Since the estimated effect is not the average treatment effect of the study population, it is important to compare the characteristics of compliers and non-compliers. Profiling compliers and non-compliers is necessary to understand what subpopulation the researcher is making inferences about, and an important first step in evaluating the external validity (or lack thereof) of the IV estimate for compliers. Here, we discuss the assumptions necessary for profiling, which are weaker than the assumptions necessary for identifying the local average treatment effect if the instrument is randomly assigned. We then outline a simple and general method to characterize compliers and noncompliers using baseline covariates. Next, we extend current methods by deriving standard errors for these estimates. We demonstrate these methods using an IV known as tendency to operate (TTO) from health services research.

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