Permutation Test for Heterogeneous Treatment Effects with a Nuisance Parameter

Download Paper   R Package

Abstract: This paper proposes an asymptotically valid permutation test for heterogeneous treatment effects in the presence of an estimated nuisance parameter. Not accounting for the estimation error of the nuisance parameter results in statistics that depend on the particulars of the data generating process, and the resulting permutation test fails to control the Type 1 error, even asymptotically.

In this paper we consider a permutation test based on the martingale transformation of the empirical process to render an asymptotically pivotal statistic, effectively nullifying the effect associated with the estimation error on the limiting distribution of the statistic. Under weak conditions, we show that the permutation test based on the martingale-transformed statistic results in the asymptotic rejection probability of $\alpha$ in general while retaining the exact control of the test level when testing for the more restrictive sharp null. We also show how our martingale-based permutation test extends to testing whether there exists treatment effect heterogeneity within subgroups defined by observable covariates. Our approach comprises testing the joint null hypothesis that treatment effects are constant within mutually exclusive subgroups while allowing the treatment effects to vary across subgroups.

Monte Carlo simulations show that the permutation test presented here performs well in finite samples, and is comparable to those existing in the literature. To gain further understanding of the test to practical problems, we investigate the gift exchange hypothesis in the context of two field experiments from Gneezy and List (2006). Lastly, we provide the companion [RATest] R package to facilitate and encourage the application of our test in empirical research.