Instrumental Variables with Multiple Instruments

Alexander Torgovitsky (Chicago University)

April 13, 2021, 15:30–16:50


Econometrics and Empirical Economics Seminar


Paper 1 :Empirical researchers often combine multiple instrumental variables (IVs) for a single treatment using two-stage least squares (2SLS). When treatment effects are heterogeneous, a common justification for including multiple IVs is that the 2SLS estimand can be given a causal interpretation as a positively-weighted average of local average treatment effects (LATEs). This justification requires the well-known monotonicity condition. However, we show that with more than one instrument, this condition can only be satisfied if choice behavior is effectively homogenous. Based on this finding, we consider the use of multiple IVs under a weaker, partial monotonicity condition. We characterize empirically verifiable sufficient and necessary conditions for the 2SLS estimand to be a positively-weighted average of LATEs under partial monotonicity. We apply these results to an empirical analysis of the returns to college with multiple instruments. We show that the standard monotonicity condition is at odds with the data. Nevertheless, our empirical checks show that the 2SLS estimate retains a causal interpretation as a positively-weighted average of the effects of college attendance among complier groups. Paper 2: Marginal treatment effect methods are widely used for causal inference and policy evaluation with instrumental variables. However, they fundamentally rely on the wellknown monotonicity (threshold-crossing) condition on treatment choice behavior. Recent research has shown that this condition cannot hold with multiple instruments unless treatment choice is effectively homogeneous. Based on these fi ndings, we develop a new marginal treatment effect framework under a weaker, partial monotonicity condition. The partial monotonicity condition is implied by standard choice theory and allows for rich heterogeneity even in the presence of multiple instruments. The new framework can be viewed as having multiple different choice models for the same observed treatment variable, all of which must be consistent with the data and with each other. Using this framework, we develop a methodology for partial identification of clearly stated, policy-relevant target parameters while allowing for a wide variety of nonparametric shape restrictions and parametric functional form assumptions. We show how the methodology can be used to combine multiple instruments together to yield more informative empirical conclusions than one would obtain by using each instrument separately. The methodology provides a blueprint for extracting and aggregating information about treatment effects from multiple controlled or natural experiments while still allowing for rich heterogeneity in both treatment effects and choice behavior.