Working Paper

Identification of treatment response with social interactions


Charles F. Manski

Published Date

9 February 2010


Working Paper (CWP01/10)

This paper develops a formal language for study of treatment response with social interactions, and uses it to obtain new findings on identification of potential outcome distributions. Defining a person’s treatment response to be a function of the entire vector of treatments received by the population, I study identification when shape restrictions and distributional assumptions are placed on response functions. An early key result is that the traditional assumption of individualistic treatment response (ITR) is a polar case within the broad class of constant treatment response (CTR) assumptions, the other pole being unrestricted interactions. Important non-polar cases are interactions within reference groups and distributional interactions. I show that established findings on identification under assumption ITR extend to assumption CTR. These include identification with assumption CTR alone and when this shape restriction is strengthened to semi-monotone response. I next study distributional assumptions using instrumental variables. Findings obtained previously under assumption ITR extend when assumptions of statistical independence (SI) are posed in settings with social interactions. However, I find that random assignment of realized treatments generically has no identifying power when some persons are leaders who may affect outcomes throughout the population. Finally, I consider use of models of endogenous social interactions to derive restrictions on response functions. I emphasize that identification of potential outcome distributions differs from the longstanding econometric concern with identification of structural functions.

This paper is a revised version of CWP01/10