Consider an observational study with binary treatment. I denote treatment variable as $z_i$, denote observed outcome as $y_i$, denote potential outcome as $y_i(1),y_i(0)$, and denote covariates as $x_i$. Assume the unconfoundedness $P(Z | Y,X) = P(Z|X)$ holds in this problem.

I want to inference the sample average treatment effect on treatment group, i.e. $\frac{1}{\left| \{i|z_i = 1\} \right|} \sum_{i,z_i = 1} \left[Y_i(1) - Y_i(0)\right]$. A way to do this is to regress $Y(0) \sim X$ using data from control group, and directly apply the regression function $\hat{f}(X)$ to treatment group to estimate $Y_i(0)$ , finally, use $\frac{1}{\left| \{i|z_i = 1\} \right|} \sum_{i,z_i = 1} \left[Y_i(1) - \hat{f}(x_i)\right]$ to estimate $\frac{1}{\left| \{i|z_i = 1\} \right|} \sum_{i,z_i = 1} \left[Y_i(1) - Y_i(0)\right]$.

The method sounds weird, I actually want to estimate $Y(0)$ on the treatment group, but I only use data from the control group in regression. How can I improve it?

  • $\begingroup$ Unconfoundedness here would be $P(Z|Y(z), X) = P(Z|X)$. $\endgroup$ May 20, 2020 at 9:23

1 Answer 1


The units in the control group provide information about the relationship between the $X$ and $Y(0)$, because for those units, $Y$ (the observed outcome) is equal to $Y(0)$. If you want $Y(0)$ in the treated group, you can use that information to estimate it from $X$ in the treated group, just as you describe.

For the treated units, you have $Y_i(1)$ because $Y_i = Y_i(1)$ for them. It's not an estimate of $Y_i(1)$; it is $Y_i(1)$. From the treated group alone, we have half of the information required to estimate $\frac{1}{|{i|z_i=1}|} \sum_{i,z_i=1} [Y_i(1)-Y_i(0)]$, i.e., the SATT, because we have $Y_i(1)$ for $i$ where $z_i=1$ without doing any modeling. However, for these units, $Y_i(0)$ is missing. We don't know what would have happened had the treated units received control.

How could we get $Y_i(0)$ for the treated units? For those units, it's unobserved, so no modeling of just the treated units could tell you the relationship between $X$ and $Y_i(0)$. That information only exists in the control group. So even though we're interested in a quality of the treated group (i.e., the treated group SATT), we have to consult the control group because only the control group contains information that can help us fill in the other half of the estimate of the SATT.

There are, of course, other methods of estimating the SATT, including weighting and matching, that don't require you to estimate $Y_i(0)$ for each treated unit. But, because $Y_i(0)$ is only observed for the control units, we have to include them in the analysis.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for your answer! I see we need to include data from control group in analysis, but in fact, I want to know how can we include data from treatment group in analysis because I only use data from control group in the method in my question description. :) $\endgroup$ May 18, 2020 at 17:01
  • $\begingroup$ The treated group doesn't tell us about $Y_i(0)$, so it's not useful there. We already have $Y_i(1)$ in the treated group because it's just equal to $Y_i$. So we already have exactly what we need from the treated group without performing any modeling on the treated group. I'm not sure what else you could think to do in the treated group that would give you information you don't already have. $\endgroup$
    – Noah
    May 18, 2020 at 18:42

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