American Sociological Association

Causal Inference with Networked Treatment Diffusion

Treatment interference (i.e., one unit’s potential outcomes depend on other units’ treatment) is prevalent in social settings. Ignoring treatment interference can lead to biased estimates of treatment effects and incorrect statistical inferences. Some recent studies have started to incorporate treatment interference into causal inference. But treatment interference is often assumed to follow a simple structure (e.g., treatment interference exists only within groups) or measured in a simplistic way (e.g., only based on the number of treated friends). In this paper, I highlight the importance of collecting data on actual treatment diffusion in order to more accurately measure treatment interference. Furthermore, I show that with accurate measures of treatment interference, we can identify and estimate a series of causal effects that are previously unavailable, including the direct treatment effect, treatment interference effect, and treatment effect on interference. I illustrate the methods through a case study of a social network–based smoking prevention intervention.


Weihua An





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