Inference in differences-in-differences with few treated groups and heteroskedasticity
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Differences-in-Differences (DID) is one of the most widely used identification strategies in applied economics. However, how to draw inferences in DID models when there are few treated groups remains an open question. We show that the usual inference methods used in DID models might not perform well when there are few treated groups and errors are heteroskedastic. In particular, we show that when there is variation in the number of observations per group, inference methods designed to work when there are few treated groups tend to (under-) over-reject the null hypothesis when the treated groups are (large) small relative to the control groups. This happens because larger groups tend to have lower variance, generating heteroskedasticity in the group x time aggregate DID model. We provide evidence from Monte Carlo simulations and from placebo DID regressions with the American Community Survey (ACS) and the Current Population Survey (CPS) datasets to show that this problem is relevant even in datasets with large numbers of observations per group. We then derive an alternative inference method that provides accurate hypothesis testing in situations where there are few treated groups (or even just one) and many control groups in the presence of heteroskedasticity. Our method assumes that we can model the heteroskedasticity of a linear combination of the errors. We show that this assumption can be satisfied without imposing strong assumptions on the errors in common DID applications. With many pre-treatment periods, we show that this assumption can be relaxed. Instead, we provide an alternative inference method that relies on strict stationarity and ergodicity of the time series. Finally, we consider two recent alternatives to DID when there are many pre-treatment periods. We extend our inference methods to linear factor models when there are few treated groups. We also derive conditions under which a permutation test for the synthetic control estimator proposed by Abadie et al. (2010) is robust to heteroskedasticity and propose a modification on the test statistic that provided a better heteroskedasticity correction in our simulations.