# Not understanding reason for demeaning covariates in program evaluation regression

I am reading the Imbens et al. 2009 paper on program evaluation methods: http://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handle/1/3043416/imbens_recent.pdf?sequence=2

On page 24, discussing simple regression methods for estimating the average treatment effect, they write:

"This estimator is also obtained from the coefficient on the treatment indicator $W_i$ in the regression $Y_i$ on $1, W_i, X_i, W_i·(X_i-\bar{X})$."

Can someone please explain to me why the covariates in the interaction term need to be demeaned here? I would have thought that if the non-interacted covariates enter the regression unadjusted, then they should be likewise unadjusted in the interaction term. But apparently my intuition is wrong.

Thanks.

I believe this is done to avoid having the reader do the arithmetic. In the simple linear model,

$$E[Y_i \vert X] = \alpha + \beta W_i + \gamma X_i + \psi X_i \cdot W_i.$$

The marginal effect of $W$ is $\beta +\psi X_i$, which is a function of $X$, and so the average marginal effect is $\beta +\psi \bar X$. The reader would need to know what $\bar X$ was to figure it out.

In the second version of the model,

$$E[Y_i \vert X_i] = \alpha + \beta W_i + \gamma X_i + \psi (X_i - \bar X) \cdot W_i.$$

The marginal effect of $W$ is $\beta +\psi (X_i - \bar X)$, which is a function of $X$. Here $\beta$ is the average marginal effect, so you don't need to do any arithmetic. Another way to think about it is that in the second model, $\beta$ is the effect of $W$ for someone with the average $X$, and because the model is linear, that is also the average marginal effect.

Here's an example with Stata. First we fit the simple model:

. sysuse auto, clear
(1978 Automobile Data)

. reg price i.foreign##c.weight

Source |       SS           df       MS      Number of obs   =        74
-------------+----------------------------------   F(3, 70)        =     26.20
Model |   335885357         3   111961786   Prob > F        =    0.0000
Residual |   299180039        70  4274000.55   R-squared       =    0.5289
Total |   635065396        73  8699525.97   Root MSE        =    2067.4

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
price |      Coef.   Std. Err.      t    P>|t|     [95% Conf. Interval]
-----------------+----------------------------------------------------------------
foreign |
Foreign  |  -2171.597   2829.409    -0.77   0.445    -7814.676    3471.482
weight |   2.994814   .4163132     7.19   0.000     2.164503    3.825124
|
foreign#c.weight |
Foreign  |   2.367227   1.121973     2.11   0.038      .129522    4.604931
|
_cons |  -3861.719   1410.404    -2.74   0.008    -6674.681   -1048.757
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Now we use margins to calculate the AME:

. margins, dydx(foreign) at((mean) weight)

Conditional marginal effects                    Number of obs     =         74
Model VCE    : OLS

Expression   : Linear prediction, predict()
dy/dx w.r.t. : 1.foreign
at           : weight          =    3019.459 (mean)

------------------------------------------------------------------------------
|            Delta-method
|      dy/dx   Std. Err.      t    P>|t|     [95% Conf. Interval]
-------------+----------------------------------------------------------------
foreign |
Foreign  |   4976.148   910.5648     5.46   0.000     3160.084    6792.212
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Note: dy/dx for factor levels is the discrete change from the base level.


Here we do it the demeaned way:

. qui sum weight

. gen dm_weight = weigh -r(mean)

. reg price i.foreign c.weight i1.foreign#c.dm_weight

Source |       SS           df       MS      Number of obs   =        74
-------------+----------------------------------   F(3, 70)        =     26.20
Model |   335885358         3   111961786   Prob > F        =    0.0000
Residual |   299180039        70  4274000.55   R-squared       =    0.5289
Total |   635065396        73  8699525.97   Root MSE        =    2067.4

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
price |      Coef.   Std. Err.      t    P>|t|     [95% Conf. Interval]
--------------------+----------------------------------------------------------------
foreign |
Foreign  |   4976.148   910.5648     5.46   0.000     3160.084    6792.212
weight |   2.994814   .4163132     7.19   0.000     2.164503    3.825124
|
foreign#c.dm_weight |
Foreign  |   2.367227   1.121973     2.11   0.038      .129522    4.604931
|
_cons |  -3861.719   1410.404    -2.74   0.008    -6674.681   -1048.757
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Note that the foreign coefficient matches the output of margins closely, including the standard error.

• Thanks for the explanation and detailed example Dimitriy. Makes sense. May 3 '15 at 13:21