Abstract

Our goal in this paper is to provide a formal explanation for how within-unit causal process information (i.e., data on posttreatment variables and partial information on posttreatment counterfactuals) can help to inform causal inferences relating to total effects—the overall effect of an explanatory variable on an outcome variable. The basic idea is that, in many applications, researchers may be able to make more plausible causal assumptions conditional on the value of a posttreatment variable than they would be able to do unconditionally. As data become available on a posttreatment variable, these conditional causal assumptions become active and information about the effect of interest is gained. This approach is most beneficial in situations where it is implausible to assume that treatment assignment is conditionally ignorable. We illustrate the approach with an example of estimating the effect of election day registration on turnout.

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