NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Bounds on Treatment Effects in Regression Discontinuity Designs with a Manipulated Running Variable

François Gerard, Miikka Rokkanen, Christoph Rothe

NBER Working Paper No. 22892
Issued in December 2016, Revised in May 2018
NBER Program(s):Labor Studies, Public Economics, Technical Working Papers

The key assumption in regression discontinuity analysis is that the distribution of potential outcomes varies smoothly with the running variable around the cutoff. In many empirical contexts, however, this assumption is not credible; and the running variable is said to be manipulated in this case. In this paper, we show that while causal effects are not point identified under manipulation, they remain partially identified under a general model that covers a wide range of empirical patterns. We derive sharp bounds on causal parameters for both sharp and fuzzy designs under our general model, and show how additional structure can be used to further narrow the bounds. We use our methods to study the disincentive effect of unemployment insurance on (formal) reemployment in Brazil, and show that our bounds remain informative, despite the fact that manipulation has a sizable effect on our estimates of causal parameters.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w22892

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