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An Illustrative Example of Propensity Score Matching with Education Research

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Researchers may be interested in examining the impact of programs that prepare youth and adults for successful careers but unable to implement experimental designs with true randomization of participants. As a result, these studies can be compromised by underlying factors that impact group selection and thus lead to potentially biased results. Propensity score matching is a quasi-experimental technique supported by the U. S. Department of Education that controls for systematic group differences due to self-selection and extends causal inference into these designs. The problem is that the method remains underutilized despite increased calls in the literature for its use. The purpose of this paper is to reduce barriers to the use of this statistical method by presenting the theoretical framework and an illustrative example of propensity score matching using SPSS (Version 20.0). Heuristic data, syntax, and a sample write-up of the analysis are provided.

Keywords: Propensity Score Matching; Quasi-Experimental Design; Selection Bias

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2012-01-01

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  • (CTER) publishes refereed articles that examine research and research-related topics in vocational/career and technical education, career development, human resource development, career issues in the schools (Grades K-12), postsecondary education, adult and lifelong learning, and workforce education. The CTER Editorial Board is committed to publishing scholarly work that represents a variety of conceptual and methodological bases. Submission of manuscripts representing one of the following styles is encouraged: (a) empirically-based manuscripts that report results of original research, either quantitative or qualitative, (b) reviews or synthesis of empirical or theoretical literature, (c) essays derived from original historical or philosophical research, (d) reviews of recently published books, and (e) rejoinders to articles recently published in CTER. CTER will consider for publication papers initially presented at conferences, including those disseminated through conference proceedings.
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