Natural and Field Experiments in the Study of Latin American Politics

Authored by: Thad Dunning

Routledge Handbook of Latin American Politics

Print publication date:  March  2012
Online publication date:  March  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415875226
eBook ISBN: 9780203860267
Adobe ISBN: 9781135280307


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Confounding poses pervasive problems in the social sciences. For example, does granting property titles to poor land squatters boost access to credit markets, thereby fostering broad socioeconomic development (De Soto 2000)? To investigate this question, researchers might compare poor squatters who possess land titles to those who do not. However, differences in access to credit markets could in part be due to factors—such as family background—that also make certain poor squatters more likely to acquire titles to their property. Investigators may seek to control for such confounders, by comparing titled and untitled squatters with similar family backgrounds. Yet, even within strata defined by family background, there may be other difficult-to-measure confounders—such as determination—that are associated with obtaining titles and that also influence economic and political behaviors. Conventional quantitative methods for dealing with confounding, such as multivariate regression, require other essentially unverifiable modeling assumptions to be met, which is a further difficulty.

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