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Covariate selection for estimating the causal effect of control plans by using causal diagrams

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Consider a case where cause–effect relationships between variables can be described by a causal path diagram and the corresponding linear structural equation model. The paper proposes a graphical selection criterion for covariates to estimate the causal effect of a control plan. For designing the control plan, it is essential to determine both covariates that are used for control and covariates that are used for identification. The selection of covariates used for control is only constrained by the requirement that the covariates be non-descendants of a treatment variable. However, the selection of covariates used for identification is dependent on the selection of covariates used for control and is not unique. In the paper, the difference between covariates that are used for identification is evaluated on the basis of the asymptotic variance of the estimated causal effect of an effective control plan. Furthermore, the results can be also described in terms of a graph structure.

Keywords: Back-door criterion; Conditional plan; Optimal plan; Regression model; Total effect; Unconditional plan

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Tokyo Institute of Technology, Japan

Publication date: February 1, 2003


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